Warm Winter May Actually Harm Some Ind. Crops

Posted On February 17, 2012

(Undated) – A warmer than usual winter may have a chilling effect on Indiana’s apple trees and grape vineyards this year.


Purdue University Extension specialists say ongoing mild temperatures may cause some plants to come out of their dormant state earlier than is safe, especially if temperatures again rise about 50 degrees for an extended time.


“That’s bad news because we don’t want them to start growing yet,” said Peter Hirst, a commercial tree fruit specialist. “If these fruit plants bud out too early and we get a frost that kills buds, there aren’t going to be more flower buds. You get one shot at this and that’s your crop for the year.”


Essentially, apple trees, grapes, and other fruit plants think spring has come too early, and a frost could kill the flower buds.


Blueberry and apple crops are an important part of Indiana’s agricultural industry and could be the hardest hit. The two harvests bring in over $13 million each year.


Indiana’s growing wine industry with over 70 vineyards and wineries may see similar effects.


Fellow fruit specialist Bruce Bordelon said there is nothing farmers can do to stop their fruit crops from being damaged if they sprout prematurely.


“We’re in a wait-and-see mode,” said Bordelon. “Hopefully, the groundhog was right and we’ll have six more weeks of winter. Then we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we avoid a hard frost this spring.”