Because of an early freeze a few weeks ago, many grape crops have been damaged from the Midwest to the east coast. Crops that in the past year have provided 2/3 of of the fruit in the U.S. used to make non-alcoholic grape juice. Michigan is the third largest grape producer in the United States, and we are estimated to have lost around 90 percent of our grape crop. Last year grape farmers in the MI counties of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren collected $24 million, but according to a surveyor from Welch’s Foods, they are going to be lucky if even make $2 million this year.
Temperatures fell below 32 degrees Fahrenheit between April 6th to 14th. The cold weather destroyed primary buds that had already begun to grow on the plants due to unusually warm weather in March. An employee of Welch’s said he went through hundreds of acres at one orchard before finding a live bud. He said it was a “complete wipeout.”(According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, March was the warmest in the U.S. since 1895, with an average temperature of 51.1 degrees. It was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average.) Experts say the secondary buds that will grow back won’t produce nearly the same levels of crop. It is estimated the crops will only produce about 35 percent of the normal output. They won’t know the complete effect until after the second week of May once the buds start budding again.
On the plus side, wine grapes are not expected to have been affected by the weather because they are usually a few weeks behind the schedule of juice grapes. Wine grapes are also a huge part of Michigan’s economy, contributing about 300 million dollars annually. This information does not help grape farmers that grow juice grapes, but it may relieve a little tension knowing that part of the grape economy will still be able to contribute this year.