Freeze poses danger to area fruit crops

Farmers and apple orchard owners in the Capital Region kept their fingers crossed, hoping that the t

Farmers and apple orchard owners in the Capital Region kept their fingers crossed, hoping that the temperature didn’t drop much lower than 29 degrees overnight.

“At 29 we may be able to get by,” said Nate Darrow, owner of Saratoga Apple on Route 29 in Schuylerville. “If it goes to 26, that’s very serious.”

Kevin Bowman, of Bowman’s Orchards in Rexford, said he wasn’t as worried about his apples as he was his strawberries if the mercury drops into the freezing zone.

“They are out in bloom,” Bowman said about his strawberry crop. He said temperatures below 27 degrees could damage the crop at this sensitive stage.

The National Weather Service in Albany on Monday issued a freeze warning for the entire region, saying that the temperature could drop to below freezing for a few hours after midnight.

Temperatures in the immediate Albany-Schenectady area are expected to bottom out at about 30 degrees, but some valley locations could see the mercury drop to the mid-to-upper 20s.

The cold temperature record for May 11 is 29 degrees set in 1966, said George Maglaras, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

The unseasonably cold air mass is the result of a high pressure system out of Canada that will crest across the region overnight.

The winds that plagued the region through the weekend and Monday are expected to diminish by early today, and the sky will be clear, according to the weather service.

Darrow of Saratoga Apple said that so far this year he hasn’t been hurt by frost. He has 40 acres of apple trees and also grows a variety of produce, including strawberries, vegetables and raspberries.

Neither Saratoga Apple nor Bowman’s Orchards plans to take any steps to combat the predicted freezing temperatures.

Darrow said some larger orchards spray the apple and fruit trees with water to block any freeze damage.

“We just try and be philosophical,” Darrow said. Nevertheless, “I’ve got my fingers crossed,” he said.

Darrow said seven or eight years ago, he lost half his apple crop to a late freeze. But Saratoga Apple was able to have a profitable year despite the loss because of the number of trees it has, he said.

“We grow for the local market here,” Darrow said. As a result, he said the apples don’t have to look perfect, they just have to taste good.

Bowman said his orchards and strawberry fields are located at one of the highest elevations in Clifton Park. This helps when there is a freeze or frost because the coldest temperatures settle in the lower ground and valleys.

“The cold air tends to drain away from us,” Bowman said. He said in the many years he has operated his 100-acre apple orchards, he has never lost a crop to a late freeze.

“We try to plant them on a hillside,” Bowman said about his strawberries. He said if the plants aren’t nipped by the freeze overnight, he will be selling strawberries in about 10 days, which is almost two weeks earlier than usual.

The region experienced freezing temperatures early Monday morning, Maglaras said. Albany got as low as 32 degrees, while Glens Falls dropped to 29 and Poughkeepsie to 31. The record cold for May 10 is 28 degrees, he said.

A freeze warning from the National Weather Service means that it is likely that the air temperature will drop to freezing or below. A frost warning means temperatures are likely to drop to between 33 and 36 degrees.

Maglaras said the reason the weather service issued the freeze warning is because crops and other sensitive vegetation in the Capital Region are about two weeks ahead of their usual growth schedule. The warmer than usual temperatures in April brought on the earlier growing season, and plants that are growing are in danger from the possible overnight freeze, he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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