mystery of freeze damage

alan haighApril 29, 2012

I thought I'd dodged a bullet when a freeze warning of possible 25 degrees was lifted and last night we didn't even get frost. The night before, according to my thermometer and the readings posted on-line at weather sites it never got below 28. But looking at my fruit all J. plums appear blackened and translucent and are brown inside. Now it looks like my peaches were destroyed as well as their flesh is translucent and the centers turned brown.

Here I thought it might be game over about a month ago when we got down to 23 or 24 when peaches were almost in full bloom, but there was no discoloration of developing fruit until yesterday, although I was a bit worried about slowness of sizing up. But there was no interior discoloration so I was hoping it was just a matter of the recent cool weather here retarding development.

Now I wonder if the 28 degrees did all the damage or if the fruit was already injured and so wasn't resistant to what would normally be a survivable level of cold. In the past I've had most of my stone fruit survive 27 degrees even though it was much more developed.

I will never understand how fruit trees actually work but I welcome any input that might help me try. Constant observation often creates more mystery than illumination.

I'm grateful that most of the orchards I manage are better located than mine, but it is as big a blow to lose my own crop (emotionally, though not financially). At least I don't have to worry about squirrels or thinning much. Now I will wait to see how pears and apples develop- and there's still some hope for E.plums. I'm pretty pessimistic at this point as it's been a very long time since a season began this poorly for me.

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alan haigh

I should add that my remaining apricots were sizing normally until the Sat am freeze. Now they are destroyed as well.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 9:17AM
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calistoga_al

Sometimes it is not how low the temperature, but how long did it stay low? Do you have a recording thermometer that prints a paper graph of the whole night? In a former life I was in the refrigeration business and such a record answered a lot of questions. Al

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 9:33AM
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alan haigh

Thanks, that is something I should know to consider (as I've even discussed it on this forum recently), but I don't think it held there very long. I don't have the proof, but it's recently been the trend to keep dropping until about 5:30 or so.

The year it hit 27 it was extremely brief.

Strange that my kiwis were merely singed and still have plenty of healthy flower shoots. They are usually first to burn. Open fig leaves were mostly uninjured as well.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 9:46AM
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iowajer

I feel your pain HM, I too thought the gods were smiling on me...... until yesterday when I noticed freeze damage on my State Fair apples. They're about dime size and it looks like they're all toast.

Mac seems OK so far, as does Erliblaze, Haralson, and Red Del.

In the garden I had beans coming up and some are OK, some are dead. Like 3 plants OK then 1 dead, then 2 OK and 4 dead, all along the row. Potatoes were hit and miss too,with only a handful getting hit, though they'll come back in any case.

I'm real concerned about how my remaining apples will appear in the coming days though, as well as my fully fruited Early Richmond cherry. It doesn't show any signs of frost/freeze damage but a lot of my bumper crop is on the ground after some wicked winds a day ago. Nature's way of thinning I guess.

The paper graph thermometer thing sounds awesome BTW.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 9:57AM
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strobiculate

every once in a while i get talking to some growers who run apples by the tens of acres per variety and some guys from the cornel fruit lab. while the conversations are fascinating they are technical beyond belief and in the end it all seems to boil down to one thing...as much as we know...we don't know much

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 10:12AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

harvestman:

The damage doesn't accumulate. So what you are seeing now is all recent damage. I'm not at all surprised that what escaped 23 a month ago got zapped by 28 now. Until all the blossoms are open it takes a hard freeze to knock out a crop. After the fruit is sizing it is much more tender.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 12:07PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

That's possible.
I find the same tree on different location in the yard, sheltered or not, can mean alive or dead in one night, that's wiping out the whole tree, or fruit set [apple] ,...avoid planting in low spots.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 2:28PM
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ltilton

I had some potted dahlias outside on my porch. The night of the last freeze, ones on the east side were barely singed, the ones on the corner were blackened but alive, the ones on the north side were toast. Just a few yards apart.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 3:07PM
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denninmi(8a)

Location, location, location. My only mulberry that will have ANY fruit this year is my Illinois Everbearing, because it's in semi-shade sheltered by a standard sweet cherry, a standard apple, and a large shrub Amelanchier. It sailed through last night again just fine. Many things didn't. Some of the things I didn't really think about going into the freeze event were zapped -- emerging buds on persimmon, chestnut, and hickory look fairly damaged. Paw Paw appears to lost about 90 to 95 percent of the blooms and buds, only very small tight buds look like they may have been spared. Hardy Kiwi perhaps concerns me the most -- it had been damaged severely about 3/4 weeks ago, and was coming back with new vegetative growth, which now is also toast -- makes me wonder how much potential it has to regenerate from repeated losses -- other years I have seen some dieback from this sort of thing.

Aside from the "Fruit and Orchard" crops, there was widespread damage on many of my ornamental plants -- hostas, ferns, Dicentra, Alstromeria just as examples all severely damaged. Even the emergent foliage and flowers of redbuds have suffered significant dieback. It will all regrow, but some things, such as hosta and ostrich fern, are just NEVER as pretty the rest of the season if the first flush is destroyed.

Just the way it goes some days...

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 8:04PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

If I realized how sensitive mulberries were, I would have covered my Geraldi dwarf- it got thoroughly burned by 28 degrees.

My hardy kiwi's had varied reactions: Issai- almost completely burned (disappointing, as this is the only one which was ready to flower), 49er and Geneva got moderately burned and Ken's Red and a 74-32 male have very minor damage.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 1:59PM
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ltilton

Not just location. Variety. My "Butterflies" magnolia may not survive. The "I forget the variety star magnolia" was barely scorched.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 2:11PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Several weeks ago my Puget Gold apricots got zapped hard, as did the Hunza. The Tomcots had very little damage. All are very close to each other in the same area... The Puget Gold probably has the best spot being closest to the house.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 2:44PM
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Fleeben

I think the confusion happens because frosts (as opposed to damage caused by freezing temps) depend on the temperature of the air AND the moisture content.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 8:46PM
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alan haigh

Word is most of NY fruit crop toast, as far as commercial production. Only sites close to NYC with strong coastal influence or right on edge of other major water will probably have much crop this year.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Darn!
I almost believe we're into a little ice age, ...climate scientists was saying this on a show on TV last year.
It could be this link?

Here is a link that might be useful: Global Warming or Approaching Ice Age?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 1:39AM
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alan haigh

Konrad, the problem was an obscenely mild winter here- particularly late, followed by more or less normal spring weather after the first warm week of it. Trees flowered 3 weeks early and than we went back to more normal weather. Hard freezes in April are a normal occurance in the northeast, but if the trees "think" it's May you are in trouble.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 5:44AM
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alan haigh

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/science/earth/clouds-effect-on-climate-change-is-last-bastion-for-dissenters.html?pagewanted=3&hp

Konrad, you might find this interesting.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 6:18AM
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theaceofspades(7 Long Island)

Harvest, I am 50 miles south of you and surrounded by H2O. Not lost a thing except the PC since it has been cool lately 30's 40's at night. Pollination has been exceptionally good on all fruits including hard to pollinate California Apricots, Red Sweet, Sparks Mammoth. Trying to get in as much grafting and thinning before the Imidan is needed.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 6:45AM
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Fleeben

konrad - It seems both pointless and misses the point to haggle over whether it was warmer this year than last; the climate doesn't work like that. In fact we are probably headed into a global cooling phase caused by a recent cooling trend in the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) (think el nino/la nina, except the last time we were at this stage was just after Reagan was sworn in!) that may hide or mitigate the effects of anthropogenic climate change for the next 20-30 years!

Of course the data which is not open to interpretation is the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which has always been coupled with warming events in the past and which is the highest it has been any time in the last half million years.

Here is a link that might be useful: PDO

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 7:55AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I've noticed something. Through the last few weeks its been pretty cold and have seen little growth in most fruits...except the apricots. They seem to be sizing up nicely even during the cool weather.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:04AM
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alan haigh

Same with my cots, until the hard freeze we got on the weekend.

Ace, I know, I know. I was spraying yesterday in Westchester and saw a different story than mine at all favored sites. That's why Long Island was prime fruit growing real estate until land became expensive. Has there ever been a freeze out there in your lifetime?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 10:17AM
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alan haigh

should have written freeze-out

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 11:13AM
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blackrag(6A East PA)

This being my first experience with fruit flower and set, I didn't know what the effect would be nor how to identify when frost damage occured. A couple weeks ago I planted a few tomatoes to sacrifice in order to let me know. Sat morning the tomatoes got "smoked" and there was ice in the dog's water dish. I immediately went up to inspect the fruit trees and could see no effect. In my particular case, in addition to the fact that the blossoms/set fruit are off the ground a couple feet plus the trees being planted at a higher elevation on same property made the difference and saved them? Don't know for sure. Maybe the air was moving more as well at the right time. Chad

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 11:17AM
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ltilton

Frank - same here, until most of the cots let go and dropped. The ones that are left are at least half-full size, though.

The Kieffer pears are also getting good sized.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 12:21PM
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alan haigh

Blackrag, are you growing peaches? If they are damaged they will be brown inside by now. Much of my crop is so damaged but apparently not all.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 2:05PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

My Black Gold sweet cherry has almost zero fruit set...it was the last to bloom out of the 4. I take it that either the cold zapped the blossoms and/or the pollinators weren't active. That sucks because that is a good tasting sweet cherry.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 2:31PM
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blackrag(6A East PA)

"Blackrag, are you growing peaches? If they are damaged they will be brown inside by now."

Yes. I just went up and cut through some peaches and some nectarines. (about the size of a peanut M&M) They all look green except the very center, where I imagine the pit is forming?

Maybe I snuck through, we will see. My apples are in various stage of bloom/petal fall.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 7:07PM
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alan haigh

I think you got lucky alright.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 8:19PM
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