With high temperatures around 80 last week, and lows below freezing the next, the abrupt changes in weather could have lead to irreversible changes in the area’s agriculture.
The warm weather and little snowfall has shortened the maple sugaring season and set conditions right for brushfires. Frost has damaged fruit trees in this week’s return of overnight temperatures below freezing.
John Vittori, owner of Hilltop Orchards in Lenox, Massachusetts, has said that because of the mild spring his apple trees budded about 5 weeks ahead of schedule.
Vittori said that freezing temperatures have returned, and there isn’t much he can do to defend the apple trees from being damaged.
Vittori also mentioned that some of his apple tree’s buds show a tell-tale sign that they may not flower or produce fruit.
Hilltop Orchards also grows pears and plums, which are also at risk. Some species of apples that develop later in the year may weather the cold temperatures.
Dr. A. Richard Bonnano, President of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau says despite the cold, he sees a minimal impact on agriculture, including apples.
Bonnano stated that the fruits probably damaged the most in Massachusetts were stonefruits like apricots and peaches. Those fruits will develop blossoms earlier than apples. Still, he estimates that the state’s fruit trees will pull through.
Bonnano added that the area’s vegetable crops are unlikely to be harmed at all. While seeds for vegetables may have been planted, they largely have not sprung or emerged from the ground.
In the Berkshires the dry windy weather has also created favorable conditions for brush fires. A brush fire in southern Berkshire County is currently is under investigation. The Lenox Fire Department said that burning permits are not being issued due to the high winds and dry conditions.