By Brittany Flowers
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter
ST. JOHNS — Uncle John’s Cider Mill is number one on the list of things to do in St. Johns, according to TripAdvisor, but with 2016 being an El Niño year, could Uncle John’s apple growth be threatened?
For president of Uncle John’s Cider Mill Mike Beck, there isn’t much of a concern.
“I can’t see a month from now what could happen but as of right now, I mean there is no bloom, the trees are just coming out of dormancy,” Beck said.
“I think if everything stays the way things are in present — and of course this is Michigan — we would be fine, but all it will take is one cold day between, I would say, between now and the early part of May, and we could lose our crop,” Beck said, but as of right now, nobody knows for sure what the temperature might do.
According to Katy Hintzen of Michigan State University Extension, “El Niño occurs when the waters of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean are unusually warm. Generally speaking El Niño is associated with warmer-than-average temperatures and drier-than-average conditions in the Great Lakes region.”
The mill is currently planning events for the month of May focusing on apple blossoms and honey bees, but if the apples bloom early, it could be a potential concern for farmers.
When buds reach stage six, or the full pink stage of blossom, 90 percent of the crops can be wiped out by a temperature of 25 degrees, according to a study on Critical Spring Temperatures for Tree Fruit Bud Development Stages by Mark Longstroth of Michigan State University Extension.
In average years, stage six of the blossom period is reached by April 11, and with the colder temperatures this month, those buds may be threatened.
According to The Weather Channel, temperatures in St. Johns call for a low of 33 degrees on April 11, but then lows will fall to 27 and 28 degrees on April 12 and 13, meaning 10 percent of apple crops could be killed.
Dr. Randy Beaudry, horticulture professor at Michigan State University, said development normally begins when temperatures hit around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but it generally occurs from April to May with the possibility of some early blooming late in March.
“Anytime you get warmer temperatures it sort of minimizes that dormancy — reduces the dormancy and it drives development forward. So right now we’re looking at — if you look at an apple tree you’ll see that the buds have swollen and we’re beginning to see them undergoing their early stages of development,” Beaudry said.
Beaudry said flowers are expected to be out early in May and during that time they tend to be most sensitive to low temperatures.
“Of course with 50’s also comes 30’s and sometimes even 20’s, so any temperature that’s probably below- not freezing persay- but a couple degrees below freezing, maybe as low as say 27 degrees fahrenheit, something like that, 28 degrees fahrenheit, it can be deadly for the flowers and the fruit or it can damage the fruit as it’s developing,” Beaudry said.