Apple orchard operators are beginning to get a better handle on the impact freezing temperature one month ago had on their crop. Maury Wills, with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, says apple orchards in roughly the middle third of Iowa were hit the hardest.
“Perhaps from about Highway 20 south to Highway 34,” Wills says. “And not 100-percent loss by any means, but orchards in that area had been pushed pretty far along by the warm temperatures in Iowa whereas orchards further north weren’t as far along and orchards further south didn’t have as chilling temperatures.”
Iowa produced 102,000 bushels or roughly 4.1 million pounds of apples last year. Wills says it’s highly unlikely that many apples will be available this year. He notes the damage is sporadic across the state and even within each individual orchard.
“When you get out and look at the apple trees, you’ll see trees at the bottom of a hillside that may not have any apples. But, if you go up to higher areas, you’ll see those trees do have some apples,” Wills says.
Apple trees in some sections of the state blossomed in March, about a month earlier than usual. Those blossoms did in early April when overnight temperatures dipped into the low 20s. Wills is hoping the decreased apple crop won’t stop Iowans from visiting apple orchards in the fall.
“The crop might be a little bit less and in some cases it might be significantly less, but there will still be a lot going on at the apple orchards. So, just call your local orchard and find out when they’re opening and give it shot,” Wills said.
Apple crops were likely hit the hardest, but the frost is also expected to hurt Iowa’s strawberry and grape production.