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Southwestern Michigan Loses Peach Harvest After Polar Vortex

Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm via Facebook

EAU CLAIRE, Mich. (AP) — The polar vortex that enveloped much of the Midwest early this year nearly wiped out the peach crop in southwestern Michigan, according to experts.

Some of the region's apricot, plum and apple crops may also be affected after the blast of polar air plummeted temperatures to minus 20 degrees in late January, breaking water pipes and ice-jamming bridges in areas around the state.

Bill Shane, a tree fruit specialist at Michigan State University says that Michigan's southwestern counties will suffer millions of dollars in losses from damage to fruit crops.

The polar vortex also may have shortened the life span of trees that were severely damaged, he said.
Bill Teichman recently inspected his peach trees at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, a 500-acre orchard in Eau Claire. He found deep, vertical cracks in some of their trunks, while others were bleeding sap. Some were hardly able to produce leaves, he said.

Teichman said he doubts that his peach trees will be able to produce fruit this year and that he can already tell that several need to be replaced. He also found that some of his apple varieties aren't bearing fruit, either. He plans to file an insurance claim for his losses, but it'll only help him cover his bills.

The farm is still recovering from a late cold snap in 2012 that killed the farm's peach trees.

"We've lost our peach crop twice in the past seven years," he said.

Ben Smith, who manages Hinkelman Farms in Benton Harbor, said some of the farm's grape varieties were killed and that it could take a couple of years before it can get its grapes back to full production.

He said it's important for farmers to diversify their crops and where they plant to make sure they'll have a successful harvest.

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