Bouncing Temperatures Could Mean Trouble For Pennsylvania’s Confused Fruit Trees

Mar 2, 2017

The warm weather of the last few weeks has prompted some fruit trees in Pennsylvania to start opening their flowers. But Friday night’s expected low of 20 degrees has some farmers a bit worried.

“The one good thing about most trees is not everything pushes and opens up and blooms at the same time,” Soergel’s Orchards farm manager Adam Voll said. “So you might lose some of the furthest open buds but there’s plenty of other buds … to make a crop.”

Voll has kept an eye on his peach and apple trees and is starting to see some of the tiny buds beginning to open. He said the buds are about a month ahead of schedule.

Penn State University Professor of Horticulture Richard Marini said most trees in southwestern Pennsylvania should currently be able to handle temperatures into the mid-teens but that could change quickly.

“If it warms up, the buds will develop pretty quickly," Marini said. "If it stays cool, in the 40s most days, or even low 50s, they’ll develop slowly and they won’t bloom for a while. We’ll just have to see what happens."

Marini said peach crops are a bit more sensitive than apples and apricots are the most sensitive. He said they could be heavily impacted this week, but only time will tell.

“Last year, we had a late frost and we all thought we had pretty much lost all the apples but we didn’t and we were all surprised that we got as many apples as we got last year.,” Marini said.

Pennsylvania is the fourth largest producer of apples in the United States, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

Voll said if his apple blossoms make it through the next few weeks when the threat of frost diminishes, his next worry is that the commercial beekeepers will still have their hives down south when he’ll need them in Wexford.

“This is kind of a pretty strange year,” he said.

(Photo via Fishhawk/Flickr)