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Cherry Season?
The Northern Michigan Agricultural Report
by Andrew L. McFarlane by Andrew L. McFarlane

This summer has been, so far, what one might call less than sweltering. Jim Nugent from the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station in Leelanau County offered his assessment of the current state of northern Michigan fruit crops:

"About the most interesting thing about the summer so far is that we had not been getting nearly as much rain as more southerly locations in Michigan. So far this month, we have measured almost 4 1/2 inches of rainfall (from the 17th to the 18th we got almost 2 inches), which is a fair amount. While that rain might not be the best thing for the tourist industry, for growers, it's provided some much needed moisture. Things are progressing all right, though just about all the fruit crops are at least a week behind...we'll see. It's a little hard to judge right now. The strawberry harvest should get started with early varieties by the middle of next week and they all seem to be doing fine. The bulk of the tart cherry harvest will likely not get going until late July this year, but we will get started on the early varieties of sweet cherries in the early part of july.

"It's hard to believe that in just three weeks the National Cherry Festival will begin. We'll be continuing a program that we kicked off last year. Every day during the Cherry Festival from 1-3 PM we'll have an Open House at the station. Besides tours of our research activities and facility, we'll also have educational displays and activities about industry."

Jim said that the big news so far this year had to do with a small and often overlooked group of "farmhands"...the bees. "It's been a real tough year for the honey producers, a terrible year. An average of over 70% of domestic honey bees were lost over the winter. The combination of bee mites and hard winter left the honey producers short of bees. As you know, bees are absolutely essential for the fruit industry. Without their action there would be no cherry or strawberry crops. The hard winter and the mites took an even greater toll on the feral (wild) honeybees. Usually, growers will supplement feral bees with commercial bees, but we are now at the point where we need to depend on the commercial bees. This year they had to ship them in from out of state. I will say that our local beekeepers did a really fine job working with growers and each other to get the bees where they were needed. To have losses like that are just astounding. I feel for the keepers. The one positive thing in all this is that honey prices have gone way up. Bees were difficult to get and high priced, but that's something that's going to be hard to recover from."

The Northern Michigan Journal will provide regular updates to this report and if you are interested in providing information, please e-mail or call 616-256-2829.
Contact Information: Antrim County Cooperative Extension Service:
616-533-8818 |
Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station:
6686 S. Center Highway | Traverse City | 616-946-1510 |

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