Stonefruit, cherries among biggest European frost casualties

May 19 , 2017

Stonefruit and cherries were among the most severely affected crops from the heavy frosts over much of Europe in mid-April and there will likely be significant market impacts for certain commodities, according to a private consultant. 

An apple orchard in Italy’s South Tyrol after sprinklers had been used

In a report, Netherlands-based Ronald Vermeulen, who also heads up a pome fruit and cherry research station for produce company Fruitmasters, gave an overview of the damages from the frosts over April 18 and 19 that hit much of the continent.

Affected countries include Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and the U.K.

Earlier this week, Philippe Binard, general delegate for European fresh produce industry forum Freshfel, said the frosts were “unprecedented.”

Vermeulen told Fresh Fruit Portal apples and pears were also affected by the adverse weather, but the total volumes of fruit available would depend upon the variety, specific region, and growers’ levels of frost protection.

Within the stonefruit category he believed the most significant market effect in Europe would be seen in apricots, plums and cherries, as nectarines and peaches were both widely grown across Spain, Italy and Turkey, which were far less affected than countries in northern Europe.

There were also more severe frosts last week that affected Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, although Vermeulen said not enough information was available on that situation to provide any commentary.

“Season 2017 in Europe started very early with bud break, due to optimal early weather conditions in March,” he said in the report.

“Full bloom stage of pears in Northwest Europe was around April 10 (compared to April 21 in 2016) and full bloom for apples was on average one week later.”

He added in much of Italy’s major apple growing region of South Tyrol, the full bloom stage was about 14 days earlier than the previous year.

“In the nights of April 18 and 19 temperatures dropped to -6ºC or more (for a long period of 6-8 hours) in several regions of Europe, in a stage of full bloom in apples. 

“Also on the nights of April 20 (in South Tyrol) 26, 30 and May 10, temperatures dropped below 0ºC. In this period temperatures during the day didn’t rise above 10 C during day time. Recovery of flowers and pollination circumstances were very poor.

“Every fruit growing region in Northern and Eastern Europe has been hit by frost and has been damaged to some extent, except for the southern parts in Spain and Italy.” 

He said plums, cherries and apricots were generally the most affected by the frosts in Europe, with many people speaking of losses of around 60-80%. 

“It’s the same in apples, but depending on the regions and varieties. Also in the regions with less damage the frost there will be a negative impact on fruit quality at harvest,” he said, highlighting Jonagold as one apple variety that was particularly sensitive to the cold and had been widely affected.”

Overall he said the effect on total production for 2017 in Europe was not yet known, but would become clearer in the coming weeks.

“I’ve seen totally devastated orchards because of snowfall in Southern Germany and Switzerland where they had snowfall on April 30 and constructions collapsed by closed hail nets because of the heavy weight,” he said.

“On the other hand, fruit set on cherries, pears (Abate Fetel) and apples (Gala and Pink Lady) in parts of Italy and Spain were very good without damage at all.”

“The spring frost in 2017 in Europe will have an effect on the production and fruit quality and will vary from region to region in extreme contrast of nearly empty orchards to normal and good production in areas with frost protection.”

There has also been frost damage to blueberries, but Vermeulen said the crop generally bloomed later than other crops and so was less affected.

A now-empty cherry orchard in Belgium

 

Cherries at this farm in the Netherlands were unaffected thanks to cover protection

 

Additional candles were used at this Dutch cherry farm to protect the crop

 

An apple blossom in Italy following the use of sprinklers

Cherry damage in Belgium

Photos courtesy of  Ronald Vermeulen

www.freshfruitportal.com

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