Jun 7th, 2012 by Paul Stewart, Metcalf Foundation Intern
As much as we all enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather that occurred in March, many of you may have heard that Ontario’s tender fruit farmers are reeling from it. The warm weather brought fruit blossoms in Ontario’s orchards out a full month earlier than normal. This meant that the blossoms were left open to frost damage for a longer period than normal. In late April a killing frost blew through Ontario with temperatures as low as minus seven degrees celsius. This has left Ontario Apple Growers claiming an eighty percent crop loss.
While this has been a devastating loss for many farmers across Ontario, some are saying it is too early to tell whether such stunning damage occurred. Some farmers believe there are still enough blossoms left unharmed on their apple trees to provide a normal harvest. Others are saying that for apples and pears you need to wait until September to determine what the harvest will look like.
What does it all mean for Not Far From The Tree and all the fruit trees in the city? First off, it’s probably too soon to say. While frost does damage the blossoms on trees it doesn’t always mean a total loss of harvest. Often not all the fruit on the tree is lost. Most of the damage occurs at the top of the tree and on the outside blossoms, while the fruit towards the trunk is left unharmed. Sometimes the fruit is just damaged causing frost scarring or ridging, which leaves the apples looking like little pumpkins. While these fruits may be left a little ugly and deformed they will still be excellent for the delicious cider and yummy preserves that many people like to process their harvest into.
It will also be interesting to witness how Toronto’s trees react to a late frost compared to Ontario’s rural farmers. Toronto’s trees have some unique things going for them in terms of protection from frost. Toronto is close to a large body of water; typically this is a benefit when trying to avoid frost damage. Whether we like it or not, and despite all of its negative impacts, Toronto is an urban heat island. The urban heat island effect can produce a difference in temperatures ranging from one to six degrees Celsius. This range could be enough to offset the ill effects of a killing frost.
What do you think? If you have a fruit tree in your backyard or somewhere in your neighborhood, check it out and let us know if you see any apparent damage.