Opinion: Weathering The Storms Of 2012

Brian Sparks

If there’s one thing I came to realize while putting this issue together, it’s that fruit growers are quite a resilient bunch by nature. Think of it this way: if you were to tell someone in almost any other profession that they were likely going to have no income for an entire year, just imagine what their reaction would be. And yet, growers in several locations across the country are facing this exact prospect in 2012. Chaotic weather patterns, from the spring freezes in the East and Midwest, to hail storms in California in March, have led to much uncertainty over where this year’s crop will end up.

Despite this outlook, many growers we’ve talked to the past couple months are not only carrying on, they are looking ahead to 2013 and what they need to do to make it a year of recovery. In some cases, they are also factoring in the needs of the entire fruit industry as it moves forward.

Forging Ahead

One example of this is the team behind DBR Conveyor Concepts of Conklin, MI, which is developing a vacuum-assist harvesting system for apples. (Read more about their latest efforts by clicking here.) This was supposed to be the year that, after a winter of making adjustments and modifications to the system, in-the-field evaluations would be taking place in Michigan and elsewhere. This should still be the case in Washington and Pennsylvania, but when we talked to Phil Brown and Mike Rasch, two of the three partners behind DBR (the other being Chuck Dietrich), they were concerned that this year’s likely reduced apple crop in Michigan could make it difficult to get a full sense of the machine’s capabilities.

This won’t stop the evaluation, however. Rasch says they will be diligent in seeking out areas where there is enough of a crop to provide an accurate sense of the system’s efficiency. In addition, they will be counting on the data coming out of Washington, in particular, where the machine will be trialed in a wide range of orchard systems, varieties, and terrains.

Some of the researchers responsible for evaluating the DBR unit have noted that it has the potential to revolutionize the apple industry. In other words, they couldn’t let one year of bad weather stop them.

Be Prepared

Another example of how fruit growers continue to forge ahead, even in challenging times, is in this month’s cover story. Sidney Kuhn, general manager of Kuhn Orchards in Cashtown, PA, has taken a number of steps to make sure her family’s farm is able to build a profitable future. Thanks to feedback from customers at their farmers market stands in Northern Virginia, they’ve diversified their crop offerings quite a bit in the last few years. Not only has this led to new sources of income, but in a year like 2012, it could also mean being able to offer their customers new options at a time when some of their preferred crops may face a down year.

On the farm, Kuhn has also invested in a new high tunnel, not just to extend their season, but to protect their berry plants from the elements. With weather a question mark year after year, more and more growers are taking the same approach as Kuhn and looking into high tunnels or other protective structures.

Looking Ahead

So what happens if you are a grower in an area that has experienced heavy crop loss thanks to this year’s weather patterns. First and foremost, our thoughts are with you as you battle through this difficult challenge. But as you already know, having little or no crop doesn’t mean you are done working for the year.

If you’ve read other articles on the effects of 2012’s weather on this site, you know that tree fruit researchers offer several suggestions on how to maintain at least some crop, and how to manage your trees to ensure a good crop the following year. In some cases, there are also suggestions on how you can actually save money this year by potentially cutting back on extra chemical applications.

Finally, for those of you not affected by this year’s weather, our “Tree Fruit” columnist, Jim McFerson, offers this reminder: “Next year, Michigan could be back to full production, while growers in Washington, or wherever, could face their own disaster.” In other words, anyone can experience a down year. The key is to remain resilient.

But you already know that, right?

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
sprayer nozzles
Fruits
November 18, 2017
Tips to Winterize Your Sprayers
Taking the steps to properly prepare your sprayer for the offseason will help to reduce costly problems in the spring, says engineer and spray technology expert. Read More
Biocontrols East 2017 tour stop in citrus country
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Alico Overhaul to Cut Citrus Production Expenditures
Company restructuring aims to integrate legacy businesses and reduce input costs significantly. Read More
Vegetable field irrigation in Florida
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Sustainable Farming Projects in Florida to Share the Wealth
St. Johns River Water Management District grants backing to 12 on-farm plans aimed at resource conservation and nutrient reduction. Read More
Jim Snively of Southern Gardens Citrus checks oranges in a grove
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Florida Citrus Tree Rehab in Full Swing After the Storm
With Hurricane Irma well in the rear view, growers and researchers hope to work groves back to a productive state as HLB rages on. Read More
closeup of turkey with another foul in the background
Farm Management
November 17, 2017
Consumers Forking out Less This Year for Classic Thanksgiving Meal
Annual American Farm Bureau average price report reveals you can host a fine Turkey Day feast for less than $50. Read More
Apples & Pears
November 16, 2017
USApple Seeking Nominations for Young Apple Leaders Program
Deadline to apply for program is Dec. 31. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 16, 2017
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Support Young Farmers
Act designed to help next generation access affordable land, crop insurance, and financial capital. Read More
CRISPR-Cas-9-illustration-by-Ernesto-del-Aguila-III-NHGRI
Crop Protection
November 15, 2017
Syngenta Secures CRISPR Cas-9 License
Other companies also have secured licenses, but few have announced plans to use the gene editing technology on vegetables. Read More
Crookham-Companys-Dustin-Batt-and-Mark-Jones-and-Sakatas-Bill-Jones
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Vegetable Breeding for Timing Is only Part of the Picture
Early and late season varieties give growers flexibility and allow them to sequence crops so harvest crews have steady work over a longer period. But those varieties also need other traits like disease resistance and taste. Read More
Pat-Mosely-and-Rakesh-Kumar
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Taste Is Back on the Front Burner for Vegetable Breeders
In the pursuit for solving some of the biggest problems for growers, breeders have sometimes ignored flavor. Here are two breeders who have made taste a top priority. Read More
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Practices
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Stone Fruit
November 14, 2017
Southeastern Peach Growers Hope for Winter
Chill hours being sought, but the possibility of a La Niña climate pattern could mean a drier and warmer winter. Read More
UC-Davis-trials-feature
Vegetables
November 13, 2017
Plant Breeding Is a Key Part of Precision Agriculture’s Future [Opinion]
One theme that stood out during the vegetable seed trials this past summer was how much breeders are keeping future automation in mind. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It Seeks Organization
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
So What Exactly Are Biostimulants, Anyway?
Biostimulants are one of the hottest new topics in specialty crops, but most growers could use a little clarity on where they fit. Here are the basics you need to know. Read More
The Latest
Fruits
November 18, 2017
Tips to Winterize Your Sprayers
Taking the steps to properly prepare your sprayer for the offseason will help to reduce costly problems in the spring, says engineer and spray technology expert. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Alico Overhaul to Cut Citrus Production …
Company restructuring aims to integrate legacy businesses and reduce input costs significantly. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Sustainable Farming Projects in Florida …
St. Johns River Water Management District grants backing to 12 on-farm plans aimed at resource conservation and nutrient reduction. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Florida Citrus Tree Rehab in Full Swing …
With Hurricane Irma well in the rear view, growers and researchers hope to work groves back to a productive state as HLB rages on. Read More
Farm Management
November 17, 2017
Consumers Forking out Less This Year for…
Annual American Farm Bureau average price report reveals you can host a fine Turkey Day feast for less than $50. Read More
Apples & Pears
November 16, 2017
USApple Seeking Nominations for Young Ap…
Deadline to apply for program is Dec. 31. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 16, 2017
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Support Yo…
Act designed to help next generation access affordable land, crop insurance, and financial capital. Read More
Crop Protection
November 15, 2017
Syngenta Secures CRISPR Cas-9 License
Other companies also have secured licenses, but few have announced plans to use the gene editing technology on vegetables. Read More
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Vegetable Breeding for Timing Is only Pa…
Early and late season varieties give growers flexibility and allow them to sequence crops so harvest crews have steady work over a longer period. But those varieties also need other traits like disease resistance and taste. Read More
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Taste Is Back on the Front Burner for Ve…
In the pursuit for solving some of the biggest problems for growers, breeders have sometimes ignored flavor. Here are two breeders who have made taste a top priority. Read More
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Pra…
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Stone Fruit
November 14, 2017
Southeastern Peach Growers Hope for Wint…
Chill hours being sought, but the possibility of a La Niña climate pattern could mean a drier and warmer winter. Read More
Vegetables
November 13, 2017
Plant Breeding Is a Key Part of Precisio…
One theme that stood out during the vegetable seed trials this past summer was how much breeders are keeping future automation in mind. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It S…
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
So What Exactly Are Biostimulants, Anywa…
Biostimulants are one of the hottest new topics in specialty crops, but most growers could use a little clarity on where they fit. Here are the basics you need to know. Read More
Florida Ag Expo
November 13, 2017
Florida Growers Explore New Solutions to…
Farm innovation and alternative approaches to production front and center at 2017 Florida Ag Expo. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Microbial-based Biostimulants: Big Poten…
There is no shortage of interest in or questions and opinions about biostimulants. Many are working to develop them as Read More
GenNext Growers
November 12, 2017
USDA to Fund Research on Next Generation…
Engineering, production projects are designed to spur farming innovation. Read More