ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) – Crops in New York State, including apple and grape harvests at Cornell University, could be in trouble this year thanks to the mild winter weather.
Throughout winter, there have been a handful of days when temperatures would reach the 50’s and 60’s. Snowfall has also been lower than normal, so overall, the weather this winter has been pretty mild.
When temperatures drop, crops in New York State go through an ability called cold hardiness. This allows crops like apples and grapes to stay dormant during the winter and avoid freeze damage.
When the temperatures feel more like spring in January and February, cold hardiness weakens, which results in the crops experiencing an early bud break. This can be bad during the winter because the temperature can still drop below freezing, resulting in crops exposed to frost damage.
“When it’s really mild, like our current winter, they start to respond to warming temperatures in January and February, and that makes them lose their defenses and get ready for bud break earlier,” said Jason Londo, Cornell associate professor of fruit crop physiology and climate adaptation. “That can damage the grapes if they lose too much of their defenses prior to that cold event.”
The chance of frost happening in New York State is still high during March and April. Therefore, to avoid a damaged personal garden this year, experts recommend starting a garden in late May or early June when the chance of frost is very low.