Apple Growers Remain Cautious

Following an already challenging year for apple production, the weather will continue to play a major role in yields growers see in 2024. Steve Louis, Owner of Oakwood Fruit Farm in Richland Center, says that growers across the country are all at different stages of production. He for example, had had buds break dormancy already this year-marking the earliest he can ever remember.

While the orchard has not yet experienced significant cold damage, Louis expressed concerns about the potential impact of further drops in temperature. Currently, the buds are at a stage where they can tolerate temperatures as low as 17 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit without damage. 

“As we get farther and farther into the growing stage, the critical low temperatures that they can tolerate start to rise. So if we end up getting our more typical winter weather, it could be very bad for our buds.”

In addition to weather-related challenges, the orchard is also grappling with lingering effects of drought conditions from the previous year. Despite recent rains in the region, Louis has ongoing concerns about soil moisture levels. He says the drought conditions are as bad as he’s ever seen. 

The looming threat of a 17-year cicada hatch is also on his radar. Louis expressed apprehension about controlling these pests while minimizing environmental impact, particularly in light of the orchard’s commitment to sustainable practices.

Despite these challenges, Louis remains cautiously optimistic about the season ahead, emphasizing the importance of community support for local agriculture.
To learn more about Oakwood Fruit Farm or find other apple growers near you, visit the Wisconsin Apple Growers website.