ROGERS CITY Up until a couple days ago, Ed Knaebe's apple trees looked like drifts of snow. The white blossoms on the branches were so thick that Knaebe knew he was looking at a rare sight, something growers elsewhere are also reportin?g.
"The blossoms are so abundant it's called a snowball bloom," said Knaebe, an apple producer for 29 years.
His small orchard and retail outlet is located six miles southwest of Rogers City.
"I have never seen it to this extent," he said.
If the weather and all other conditions cooperate, Knaebe and his wife, Dusty, are predicting they will have a bumper crop of honeycrisps, gala, red delicious and other apples this fall. They operate an agri-tainment business 12 weeks out of the year at their farm, beginning around Labor Day, and offer cider, donuts, gifts and tours as well.
Last year's warm temperatures in March caused the trees to bloom early, and 70 percent of the couple's crop was wiped out by frosts that followed, Knaebe said.
"There's not much you can do about the weather, so you take what comes along," he said.
In Traverse City the same conditions killed 90 percent of the apple crop there as well as 99 percent of the cherries, said Nikki Rothwell, district horticulturist with Michigan State University Extension.
"This year we're set up for a nice crop, although it's too early to tell," said Rothwell, who is based out of Traverse City. "We've had a nice bloom and some growers in the area are still in bloom."
Although the loss of the crop was tough on shoppers, it left orchards healthier than normal, she said. The frost eliminated a season of stress that orchard trees go through to create fruit.
Rothwell said she is sending out a newsletter telling growers how they can thin this year's blossoms for a better yield.
Less fruit on the tree means larger apples, Knaebe said.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.