Cherry forecast: michigan growers prepare for shifts in seasonal weather

Cherry forecast: michigan growers prepare for shifts in seasonal weather

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Michigan cherry growers are closely monitoring the unusual weather conditions as they prepare for the upcoming cherry season. Trish Taylor, the marketing manager for Riveridge Produce Marketing, Inc., acknowledges the atypical winter weather, noting that despite the current season, the warmer temperatures have persisted. She emphasizes the importance of keeping an eye on the weather, especially considering the dormant state of the trees at this time.

As Taylor explained to the specialized web FreshPlaza, Riveridge conducts a yearly assessment of weather patterns and bud development in early March. Currently, the trees remain dormant, indicating no significant changes. Typically, cherry bloom in Michigan occurs from late April to early May, with harvest in the third week of June. However, Taylor speculates that the warmer weather might result in an earlier harvest this year, possibly by a week.

To mitigate the effects of weather fluctuations, Riveridge made investments in its growing operations after the 2022 season, including the use of row covers introduced last year. These covers serve to protect the fruit, particularly during rainy periods close to harvest, preventing splitting or damage. Additionally, the covers help maintain warmer temperatures, crucial during blossom periods. Taylor highlights the success of these investments, noting the significant increase in harvest experienced in 2023.

In anticipation of the upcoming season, Riveridge has made several developments, including the expansion of its sweet cherry acreage by planting an additional 50 acres this year. This expansion aims to meet the demand for cherries, which consistently exceeds supply. The company is also in talks with tart cherry growers to explore the possibility of transitioning to sweet cherries. Furthermore, Riveridge is expanding its cider facility in Grant, Michigan, to accommodate a new cherry packing line, making it the sole commercial cherry packer in the state.

Despite these preparations, growers remain vigilant, particularly regarding potential spring frosts and rain before harvest, which could impact cherry bloom and quality. Additionally, concerns about labor availability and costs persist, as cherries require manual harvesting and delicate handling. However, Taylor remains optimistic about Michigan’s ability to produce high-quality sweet cherries, emphasizing the demand from nearby markets and the favorable climate for cultivation.

Source: FreshPlaza

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