Taking Stock of that April Freeze

Just how bad was last week's freeze? Turns out while there may be pockets of significant loss, many may have dodged a bullet.

Published on: Apr 16, 2012

Marveling at buds popping and crops emerging early is great, until Nature strikes back with a cold snap. That's what happened last week in the upper Midwest when temperatures dipped into the 20s in many areas, taking a bite out of some areas.

"This is not unusual for early to late April to see a cold wave of this magnitude," says Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist. "The major impact will be on fruit crops in the Northern Great Lakes." He says that includes cherries, peaches and apples. In fact, in Michigan it's estimated the frost took out 10,000 acres of grapes used to make jams and jellies.

Crops hit by the frost last week had been pushed ahead three to four weeks by record warm temperatures in March. "Producers continue to monitor their crops," Rippey says. "There is a very fine line between a thinning frost, which is something that can benefit the crop, and a catastrophic freeze that can wipe out a frost."

TOUGH BREAK: Orchards in the fruit business were hit hardest by last weeks freeze.
TOUGH BREAK: Orchards in the fruit business were hit hardest by last week's freeze.

He notes a freeze in the high 20s to low 30s can thin a crop, which is a benefit. But colder temperatures into the 20s and lower can be catastrophic. "The difference is just a few degrees," Rippey says.

It appears most crops in the upper Midwest had not emerged enough to be impacted by the freeze, and where crops have emerged - in the South - the freeze didn't reach. "Only a very small amount of the southern Midwest had crops emerge and not overlapping the coldest air," Rippey says.

Continued monitoring of all crops that were hit by the freeze is warranted.

This record-setting spring will challenge growers on a lot of levels, including seasonal issues like frost and other impacts that can crimp yield. For many crops, growers were waiting for the crop insurance replant restrictions to expire before hitting the field. Those deadlines, which are staggered across the Corn Belt, started expiring last week.