Michigan Farmers Fear Frost

Frozen leaves may look pretty, but farmers hate themIn the past two months, Michigan residents have been enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures and many people been loving weather. Everyone except for one large part of the population, Michigan farmers, is embracing the warmth. This spring, farmers have been busy at work trying to plant crops for the upcoming season. Unfortunately the weather in Michigan has been even busier making the farmers’ job even harder. The recent slew of very warm weather followed by freezing temperatures has made deciding when to plant an issue for farmers. There have been overnight and early morning frosts on some days that can kill or damage plants that the farmers have planted. This means that farmers could lose part or all of their planted crops if the weather continues to be this unpredictable.

There is also another problem with the unseasonable warmth. Michigan farms rely heavily on the help of migrant workers to help hand-pick some crops such as asparagus, one of Michigan’s marquee crops. Unfortunately, the migrant workers are in other parts of the country right now and don’t arrive to Michigan for at least another month. This means that frost is an even bigger problem because without as much help, the crops are exposed to the elements for a longer time before being picked.

Even with the potential risks of frost killing or damaging a crop, many farmers went ahead and planted their crops during the heat wave. This is because some farmers saw the risk of a freeze outweighed by the potential for a longer growing season. A longer growing season would mean more crop production and higher profit from this summer and fall.  Some farmers have used precautions to protect against frost such as fans or heaters in order to keep their crops warm enough to resist freezing or frosting over. Despite precautions, no one knows how the weather will react in Michigan and farmers will not sleep well until Summer arrives.

Carter Ellwood

Sources:
http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2012/04/weather_forecast_freezing_temp.html
http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y7223e/y7223e0e.htm

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One response

  1. Talking to some local farmers, particularly apple and cherry farmers, the consensus among them was that the crops will suffer minimal damage due to the temperatures. While most fruit trees did begin to bloom in early march that were followed by harsh frosts, the reality is the frost season lasts until may. If there were to be anything beyond that, then it would be a time for concern. Also, many farmers today that do not have seasonal workers are usually on a smaller scale and often times start their crops as seedlings in a hoop house that is capable of being temperature controlled. If there are crops in the ground already, there can be measures to be taken to prevent damage, such as putting plastic over them – which is esentially putting a mini-hoop house over the crops. They can capture the heat of the sun during the day and prevent frost from damaging them. This is not to say that we should not be concerned about the potential for crop loss this season – but we cannot assume that a great amount of damage has been done.

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