Freeze Damage to Apple Crop Varies by Variety & Location

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The recent freezes that occurred on April 2-3, 2021, certainly had an impact on Henderson County’s apple trees. With temperatures as cold as 20°F there was expected to be some damage. Temperatures over the two nights dipped below the critical temperature of 28° for several hours each night.

Weather stations in the area reported temperatures ranging between 21.5 and 26° on both nights. The lowest temperatures were generally recorded around 7 a.m. those two mornings.

Orchards across the county experienced some level of damage. Assessment of a few orchards showed blossom mortality ranging between 10% and 100% depending on the variety and location. The table below shows the percentage of king blossoms and side blossoms that were determined non-viable for each variety at each location.

The good news is that it doesn’t take all of these blossoms to set a crop. A full crop can be set with as few as 15-20% of the blossoms setting fruit. The last column shows the potential percentage remaining

 of what would be considered an optimum set for the limbs assessed.

Of course, how many of these actually set will depend on future weather events and occurrences that may impact the survivability of the remaining blossoms. Also, the cold could have a significant impact on quality. That remains to be seen.

N.C. Cooperative Extension of Henderson County sampled three orchards in the county with an average of four varieties per orchard to assess damage. The results are shown in the table below. These samples were taken on April 6-7. The names of the orchards are not provided but a general description of location is given.

Location Variety % Dead Blossoms % Dead King Blossoms % Dead Side Blossoms No. Viable Blooms Total Potential % Optimal Crop
Edneyville West Pink Lady 81.1 93.0 77.8 37 205.6
Fuji 84.9 96.3 81.7 38 211.1
Gala 11.0 12.8 10.6 210 1166.7
Golden Delicious 81.2 92.9 77.8 35 184.2
Edneyville East Pink Lady 89.7 79.2 93.2 10 55.6
Fuji 99.3 100.0 99.0 1 5.3
Gala 70.5 62.2 72.7 52 288.9
Jonagold 70.0 81.8 66.2 27 142.1
Ginger Gold 61.5 56.4 63.1 65 361.1
Sugar Loaf Honey crisp 24.4 39.0 20.4 204 927.3
Red Delicious 22.4 40.8 17.6 184 541.2
Rome 20.7 56.3 12.1 130 541.7
Golden Delicious 39.4 70.8 30.6 66 366.7