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Bud loss due to cold injury

Based on meetings with tart cherry growers (view Recollections of Experienced Farmers), the single most important climate/weather factor is spring freeze events. Freeze events can occur when unseasonable, warm temperatures that bring overwintering crops out of dormancy and promote early vegetative development, are followed by several mornings of prolonged freezing temperatures, that cause cold injury during critical stages of flower bud development. The resulting cold injury, or percent of buds lost to cold injury, may reduce crop yield potential.

In Michigan, one of most important determinants affecting the tree’s ability to withstand cold temperatures in the spring is the degree of winter hardiness achieved during the period of acclimation (see section on dormancy), which is related to the amount of carbohydrates stored in the tree.

Also, factors affecting the microclimate of a site can increase or decrease the likelihood of spring frost events. The proximity to large bodies of water (i.e. the Great Lakes) provides a local warming effect at night, which helps to reduce the likelihood of severe spring freezes.  The cooling effect during warm spring days provided by the proximity to large bodies of water may delay flower bud development and contribute to avoid spring freeze damage. Also, orchards located on a hillside have lower probability of crop failure due to late spring freezes compared to orchards located at low elevations with poor air drainage.

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