Apr 2, 2015
Talkin’ Shop: Climate change

Fruit Growers News recently asked its readers: How are you adapting to the changing climate? Some of the responses appeared on Page 47 of the April issue. The full list of responses is below.

In light of all the evidence that climate change was a hoax perpetuated by “scientists” who were given grants to prove an agenda that in actuality has proven to be false, you further spread the lie that climate change is man-made and that we are going to have to change nature. Good luck! Do you not realize that it makes you look the fool to many who are enlightened? Sure, climate changes from spring to summer to fall and winter then back to spring again. It has been going on since God created this earth. We do not understand fully why or how, but many of the “changes” you talk about are common-sense adaptations that a wise farmer is doing. New ideas for mini-climate-controlled environments are helpful, but just because we have had a few hot years followed by a few very cold years does not mean we have to try to control weather!

Chet Bartels, West Olive, Michigan

I am not. Our zone will probably not require any changes in practice.

James Schmutz, South Carolina

1. Purchase NAP insurance for peaches. 2. Grow more primocane fruit, blackberries. 3. Have sprinkler irrigation available.

Larry Livengood, Norwalk, Ohio

Other than looking for a new homestead on the north shore of the Upper Peninsula or east coast of Lake Superior (which in 60 to 80 years will be most like what we enjoy today in southwest Michigan), we are looking more stringently at the winter hardiness and heat/drought tolerance of any new plantings (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, sweet cherries, peaches, plums, apples, grapes – including wine grapes, and vegetables), and making sure that plant health is as optimal as possible (beginning with our soils) to better withstand nature’s extremes. Temperatures in general will increase, but it is the extremes in each season that will hurt the most.

Install irrigation on everything, because Mother Nature tends more and more to not provide during our greatest need; frost protection – wind machines, under-tree sprinkling, row covers; and new growing techniques like high tunnels and Trellis Growing Systems (where you can lay the trellis and plants down to overwinter) on blackberries. But could something similar be used on other caneberries, or even wine grapes? Humidity will go through the roof (Missouri/miserable, or northwest Texas) if emissions are not curbed, and what will that do for mold/mildew pressure? Will we have winters cold enough to knock down pest insect populations like mosquitoes, SWD and BMSB? We are already avoiding late ripening berry plantings because we do not want to fight SWD until we get a proven game plan to deal with them. The main idea is to not stick our heads in the sand, instead keep our eyes, ears and minds open.

Chris Lattak, St. Joseph, Michigan

I don’t believe in man-made climate change.

Stephen Stringer, Mississippi

Barely! These weather extremes are frightening.

Bob Futh, Washington, Connecticut

It is the same wonderful world I grew up in. Are you nuts? Our climate is a little different every year. 105-day corn still takes 105 days most years to mature. Just like it did when Henry Wallace started the Hi-Bred Seed Corn Co. in 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Bill Parks, Bothwell, Ontario

After 50 years growing lowbush (wild) blueberries in New Hampshire and Maine, I have noticed the productive center of this industry is moving north. I assume climate change is the biggest cause, but who knows? The factors limiting production in the more southerly locations are grass, fungus and certain insects. The seven fields I manage are located 35 to 125 miles apart. Each year, at least one will have a crop failure. (Not sure what I would do if they all flourished at once.) If a field consistently fails, I simply look for another to lease. Maine has hundreds of abandoned blueberry fields, and Extension people are helpful in finding them.

Arthur Harvey, Hartford, Maine

Hah! This is the west coast of Michigan – the climate changes minute by minute!

Matt Moser, Coloma, Michigan

What climate change?

Dick Perdue, Taylors, South Carolina

It has been difficult in the last few years for me. My main crop is blackberries; however with the truck farm I have to start seeds every two weeks starting in mid-January and go through the end of March. Sometimes we have frosts in mid-May, and at other times, like in 2013, it was 100 degrees on May 1. It is very challenging to have the seeds in the ground at the right time. In the past week we have had the first day in the 60s then two days in the teens, then it was two days in the mid-70s, then yesterday it started getting cold in the afternoon and started to sleet last night. We woke up this morning with about 3 inches of ice and cannot even leave the driveway. It is supposed to be in the 50s again tomorrow or the next day. I am used to very mild winters and the worst month has always been in February, but in the last few years it starts to get cold in early November, then warm and cold. This makes it very hard to grow many crops for sale unless you have a greenhouse or high tunnel. I totally disagree with the idea of global warming. Our winters are longer and colder than ever and the summers are not as hot, usually, for the last four years.

Robert Hays, Dumas, Mississippi

We’ve planted a few more peaches than would have been considered prudent back when I was growing up here, and we have a few sweet cherries as well. We still lose the peaches to cold winters every so often, but they make enough money in the more frequent good years to justify their existence.

Ellen McAdam, Springvale, Maine

We are trying to adapt to the climate extremes by making sure that we have drip irrigation to all of our trees for the dry times; digging additional drainage for the wet times; removing trees that have died from extreme winter temperatures and planting new varieties in test plantings before making the larger commitment to make sure they are hardy enough to withstand our new climate extremes. Every year since starting our orchard 10 years ago there are one or two varieties of apple trees that seem to be adversely impacted harder than the rest. It’s not a late freeze, it’s drought, or too much rain, severe storms or an early freeze. This past year we lost several established trees of a variety that has been around for several decades with little or no issues. It’s getting more difficult to plan and plant for the long term. I don’t know all of the details of what the breeding stations are using for their criteria in developing new apple varieties (other than similar to Honeycrisp), but I hope they are working on developing trees that can adapt to future weather extremes.

Dave Lindquist, Glenwood City, Wisconsin

I think fruit growers and other farmers have been adapting to climate change for many years. The climate has always been constantly changing. The risks are enormous and more fruit growers today have crop insurance to provide a slight hedge.

In the past 20 years, we have had more violent changes in weather even during the growing season. For example, in southern New Jersey we seldom would get a hailstorm after the Fourth of July. Now, hailstorms occur right up and through harvest. I know some growers that have had hail four out of five years, an unusually high rate.

Over the past 20 years we have been planting varieties of peaches, nectarines, plums and grapes we would not have planted prior to 1994, because they could not stand our low winter temperatures. With the low temperatures we have had in 2014 and 2015 during the winter, we are seeing these varieties injured.

Farming always involves adjustments due to the weather, but some have been cruel and devastating for fruit growers during this time of climate change.

Jerome L. Frecon, New Brunswick, New Jersey

To me it’s kinda crazy to think we are experiencing climate “change.” In Michigan in the last decade, we have seen some of the warmest and coldest winters and warmest and coldest summers. So I guess in the summer we run more irrigation if it’s hot and we prune out winter damage if the winter is too cold. We just experienced the fourth coldest month ever in February in Michigan. Temperatures dropped to minus 20 even by the lake, so over the next year we will be pruning out more winter damage.

Greg Schultz, Fruitport, Michigan

The same way humans have adapted for 100,000 years. Now if we ever see the climate stop changing, that’s when we need to worry about the coming catastrophe.

Jerry Coon, Coleman, Michigan

Take every opportunity to build humus. All management decisions carefully examined through the climate change lens! Industrial agriculture’s challenge: Keep Earth from looking like Mars by 2200!

Bill Weiss, Quincy, Washington

Here in southern Indiana we haven’t seen much of a change. Last summer, we rarely saw temperatures in the 90s. We didn’t have a blackberry crop because the winter was just brutal. This winter hasn’t been much better. So probably won’t have blackberries again.

Phil Clark, North Vernon, Indiana

There would have to be climate change for anyone to adapt. I haven’t seen it in over 40 years of farming.

Brian Handy, Bourne, Massachusetts

We have had “wacky” weather for the past seven years. It will be hot and dry one year then cold and damp the next. I am not sure that we are adapting very well. We may change to start pruning as soon as the fruit has been harvested, since we had budding in February.

Abundantly Green Certified Organic Produce, Poulsbo, Washington

I think being a farmer is all about adapting to the climate. We adapt what we will do each day when we look out the window. We hurry to prune if we think it will be an early spring. We look for more pickers if the hot weather is affecting the harvest quality of the fruit. Fortunately, the climate has not changed enough for us to need to do anything drastic.

Cox Orchards, Cashmere, Washington

Well, since it has been 7 below zero for the last few days, I’m looking forward to climate change.

Maggie Nutter

Throw more wood in the boiler.


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