Summer drought could reduce fall apple season

The summer drought was tough for some Minnesota farmers, especially Joe Schroeder.

As the owner of Wood’s Edge Apples in Buffalo, Minnesota, he saw only 1 1/4 inches of rain between June, July and August.

So he ran his drip irrigation system all day, every day. The system was designed to be an additional source of water, as the farm was not getting the moisture it needed to produce crops as usual. And because apples are largely made of water, the lack of precipitation this year has proven difficult.

Schroeder tried to order more parts to make a stronger irrigation system, but due to the extreme backlog they would not have arrived until after they were needed.

“We did what we could given the limited resources we had,” said Schroeder. “There wasn’t much else we could do during this period to react. “

But it could have been worse. While Wood’s Edge Apples lost fruit and pumpkins this year, Schroder estimated that if he hadn’t used the irrigation system like he did, he probably would have lost an additional 30 to 40 percent of his harvest.

Schroeder and his farm are not alone. Farmers across the state have been hit hard by the summer drought, and its lingering effects are now showing in orchards and pumpkins across the state.

This fall at Wood’s Edge Apples is mostly business as usual and families can still choose their own products. But customers should expect the farm’s picking season to end about two weeks earlier than usual due to a weaker apple supply.

Summer drought

For most of Minnesota, the summer drought was the worst the state has seen in 10 to 30 years. And while the entire state has been affected, central and northeastern Minnesota have been hit the hardest.

Pumpkins at Croix Farm Orchard in Hastings Thursday.

Carly Quart | MPR News

At the end of June, 10% of the state was in “severe drought”, but this figure rose to 72% by the end of July. In August, parts of northwestern and north-central Minnesota were in “exceptionally drought”. The State Bureau of Climatology of the Ministry of Natural Resources noted It was the first time that part of Minnesota had experienced such severe drought levels in the 21-year history of the US Drought Monitor.

Annie Klodd, an extension teacher at the University of Minnesota for statewide fruit and vegetable production, said the impact of the drought was extremely variable from farm to farm. Some saw no consequences while others noticed a significant reduction in yield and size or quality of the fruit.

“The extent of the impact of drought on yield this year will depend on how much rain a person received, when they had rain, what types of soil they have and how mature they are. crops and cultivated genetics, ”said Lizabeth Stahl, Crop Extension Educator.

But these are not the only determining factors.

For apple orchards, those with older trees tended to handle droughts better. This is because well-established trees have strong, deep rooted systems that consume water better than younger trees.

Irrigation systems also played a role in determining the severity of the drought. In general, irrigated farms have not been so badly affected by the drought.

A child holds a bag of apples while picking more from a tree.

A child grabs a Haralson apple in the orchard of Ferme Croix.

Carly Quart | MPR News

Jeff Leadholm can attest to this. As the owner of Croix Farm Orchard in Hastings, he turned on his farm’s drip irrigation system in mid-June for the first time in nearly eight years.

“Basically, you put water directly into the root system of the tree, so you don’t lose any evaporation,” Leadholm said. “You need less water to feed the trees.

This has helped Croix Farm Orchard immensely, and when it comes to drought issues, it was essentially a ‘no problem’ for Leadholm.

Could the impact spill over into next year – and beyond?

While somewhat unpredictable, the impacts of the summer drought could last beyond this year.

Rick Pawelk, owner of LuceLine Orchard in Watertown, said his family are having smaller apples this year than they usually see. He fears that there may be even greater impacts in a year or two.

“Apple trees form from the buds of next year’s fruit over the previous summer,” Klodd said. “So when we have very hot and dry June and July, it can sometimes decrease the apple yield the following year. ”

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