Crops Fine Despite Cold

It’s the third coldest winter on record, but Door County’s cherry trees and grape vines are up for the challenge.

“None of the trees or vines were really stressed because we had a very good fall,” said Dean Volenberg, Door County Extension agriculture agent. “It was moist and things didn’t defoliate early, so we weren’t under stress.”

Healthy cherry trees have seen 23 percent of buds lost this winter, and stressed trees have seen 27 percent. Those numbers aren’t out of normal range – 15 to 30 percent of buds die in average winters, and even losses of up to 50 percent of buds can produce enough fruit for a whole crop, Volenberg said.

Damage to grape buds are also about normal, at less than 10 percent.

“One of the reasons cherry trees are planted on the peninsula is because we have a cold, long spring warm-up, so the cherries wouldn’t bud early and they wouldn’t be impacted by an early spring frost,” Volenberg said. “As far as the fruit crops, [this winter weather is] not a big deal. As far as getting in the field, it could have some impact.”

Volenberg expects the cold winter to affect row crops the most. Snow cover on fields could delay soil warming and push back planting dates for farmers, especially those in Southern Door with clay soils that don’t drain water well.

Door County has already received 47 inches of snow, the average snowfall for November through April. Scott Cultice, meteorological technician for the National Weather Service (NWS) in Green Bay, said the peninsula will likely see more.

“You’re right, at this moment, average,” Cultice said. “You still have the rest of February, all of March and all of April to go. I bet you’re going to be above average snowfall for the season.”

NWS weather records for Door County date back to 1905.