Hi Con, it is always interesting to hear what you have to say across the 'puddle.' Hard to believe it is somewhat spring-like there already. Here in the northeast U.S. it has been a pretty snowy winter, particularly in the mountains of northern New England where the skiers are having a grand time. We have not had extreme cold, it has barely dropped below zero (-4.3 F.) in central Massachusetts. The days are noticeably longer and daylight savings time starts in just 3 weeks!

I will be very curious to see how the season evolves, as we are coming off two years of very good apple crops, yet I am seeing a lot of fruit buds still. I believe most would agree that last season the weather was very good -- not too hot, not too cold, not too much or too little rain, etc. I think the apples liked it.

The weather has been a little crazy in parts of the U.S., what with the rather odd tornado that struck Ken Hall's orchard in Illinois back in January, and then just under two weeks ago a major outbreak of tornadoes in the south that resulted in over 50 fatalities. Global warming (aka climate change) suggests we will experience more severe weather, but I am not sure how it can be documented if at all. (It will take time.) But I am sure as fruit growers, none of us wants to see an increase in extreme weather, my observation is that tree fruit likes nice 'normal' weather best.

Lastly, you mention the availability of labor, and I am not the best one to comment on this other than the fact it has become a 'hot button' in our presidential campaign (what do you all think of that?) and no doubt it is huge issue facing most farmers. I am not sure we will ever agree on a solution, but I think I just read somewhere that close to 70% of the agricultural labor force is not 'legally' here, FWIW.


Jon Clements
Extension Tree Fruit Specialist
UMass Cold Spring Orchard
393 Sabin Street
Belchertown, MA  01007
VOICE 413.478.7219
FAX 413.323.6647
IM mrhoneycrisp
Skype Name mrhoneycrisp

On Feb 14, 2008, at 10:51 AM, Con.Traas wrote:

Hello all,
We are experiencing a lovely warm spell for this time of the year, and St. Valentine’s Day. Although warm, the trees are not so advanced as they were a few years ago, when the first Victoriaplum trees started flowering at this time. So, at the moment it looks as though (assuming the weather does not remain warm for too long) we will have an early spring, but not one for the record books, which is a relief, as we have often had damaging frosts in early May, which is still a long way off. On our own farm we still have apples in store, and thanks to the Smartfresh treatment, they are really excellent. In fact, they seem to stay that fresh that I need to add far fewer high-acid apples to my juice to get a nice balance between sweetness and acidity. My only problem is to figure out what to do with the high acid apples. In general growers were happy with apple demand this year, but are very concerned about the rising costs of fertiliser (linked to oil prices it seems), and agrochemicals. However, labour is still the number one cost, and it looks likely to remain that way. At least in Ireland it is possible to get labour, whereas in the UK and Holland, it can be very difficult. I would be interested to hear what prospects are like in other parts of the World, and how the spring is shaping up. Right now I’ve got to go out and do a bit of work.
Con Traas


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