Low Expectations for Door County Tart Cherry Crop
Tart cherry bloom in Door County is earlier than normal this year. Growers expect their orchards to be in full bloom from this weekend through the middle of May. But unlike other years, this season’s bloom is not promising a bountiful harvest.
Unseasonably warm temperatures in March have left many tree fruit growers in Northeast Wisconsin in quite a predicament. Tree fruit buds were so advanced that it was impossible to expect that they could have survived the normal freezing temperatures of April. Damage arrived in late March when trees were exposed to a wind freeze while at a very sensitive stage. And since then, flower buds have been exposed to freezing temperatures several times, trimming crop potential each time.
The last cherry crop disaster in Door County occurred in 2008, with only 600,000 pounds of production out of a potential 12,000,000 pounds. It is too early to say how bad 2012 will be, but it is possible that production may not exceed those 2008 numbers.
Cherry growers in other regions of the country have experienced damage due to the March warm spell as well. Michigan, which produces 80 percent of the total supply of tart cherries, has experienced much of the same early season damage to flower buds. Reports this week indicated that many commercial Michigan growers have experienced severe and devastating losses.
Wisconsin growers are hopeful that there will still be enough fruit to meet the demands of the local markets. To date, sweet cherries in the county have experienced some damage, but less extensive damage than the tart cherry crop.
Throughout the many years of Door County cherry history, operations today are much less diverse than they used to be. The cherry is the very center of most of the county’s orchard operations. 2012 will surely be a difficult year for growers.