ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Upstate New York farmers are anticipating a great year for apples, blueberries and other fruit after many suffered weather-related losses in 2012.
An unusually warm winter and spring last year brought blossoms out early, leading to heavy losses when the normal April freezes hit. But this year, the long, chilly spring, rainy summer and recent heat wave have made for ideal growing conditions.
"Everybody should be pretty happy with their prospects this year," Cornell University horticulture professor Marvin Pritts said Monday. "Every fruit crop in the Northeast has really set up nicely. Apples, grapes, blueberries, raspberries — they're all looking good."
Pritts said plants that didn't bear much fruit last year put their energy into building up buds, which resulted in heavier-than-usual blooming this spring.
"Last year we had temperatures in the 80s in March, which really pushed things along," Pritts said. "This year, it was really cold for most of the spring. People were complaining that it was never going to warm up. But it meant the fruit trees remained dormant and didn't put out buds until after the danger of hard frost was past."
James Buhrmaster, manager of Buhrmaster Farms in the Schenectady County town of Glenville, said the persistent, heavy rains of June watered down the flavor of the strawberry crop, but made everything grow faster.
"We've been getting blueberries like crazy, and the raspberries are doing well, too," Buhrmaster said from the family's farm stand.
Mike Fargione, a fruit expert with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in the lower Hudson Valley, said growers in his region expect a large crop with excellent quality this year after losing half their normal yield last year.
"In general, this has been a really nice year for tree fruit," Fargione said. "There was excellent bloom and good growing conditions, and everywhere I go I'm seeing excellent quality."
Fargione said heavy growth resulting from last year's smaller fruit production made extra pruning and thinning work for growers. "Each season, growers will take a proportion of young fruit off the tree" so the remaining fruit gets bigger, he said. "They had to be more diligent about that this year."
Growers also have to be vigilant for signs of fungal disease because of the frequent rains this summer, Pritts said.
"Grape growers will take off some leaves so the plants get better air circulation," he said. "Apple growers may do some pruning to allow better air movement so the fruit and leaves don't stay wet for so long. Fungicides can also be used to reduce the incidence of disease."
Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, said Concord grape growers near Lake Erie lost half their crop with the late freeze last year, but growers all over the state are pleased with the amount of rain and sunshine this year.
"It looks to be a good year," Trezise said. "Time will tell. There are still two months left before we start to harvest in earnest, and three months before we know how it went."