April frosts kill some local apple varieties

John Marker, of Marker Miller Orchards, pulls dead and diseased Golden Delicious apples from a tree. He said he suspects the cold days in early April killed them off and now he's trying to see how much of the variety he can salvage. Jake Zuckerman

The apple connoisseurs of the Shenandoah Valley will be noticing a lack of one of the most popular strains of the fruit this fall, after a blistering April wiped out some early blooming varieties.

Farmers know Red Delicious apples can be a nuisance to grow, and April’s two especially frosty days on the 6th and 10th killed hordes of them in their infant stages. Now the effects are clear to farmers who will be counting on their more reliable varieties to sell in the fall.

“Red delicious, we’ve lost all those, but the rest of them are good,” said Tom Bullock, owner of Mowery Orchards.

Bullock said most of his varieties are fine, including his Golden Delicious and Ginger Goldens, but he lost almost all of his Summer Rambos.

Along with Bullock, Dudley Rinker, manager of Rinker Orchards said he had problems with some early bloomers as well.

“Some varieties have hurt more than others,” Rinker said. “Red Delicious have hurt the most, also my Idareds.”

Rinker added it’s not just April’s cold weather that’s been hurting the apples. He said the cloudy and constantly rainy May weather has been inhibiting pollen tube development, which stops pollen from making it to the seeds, and in turn slows cell division.

Over at Marker Miller Orchards, John Marker had some problems with his Red Delicious apples, but he said enough of his Honey Crisp, Gala, Granny Smith and Fujis came in that there’s not much to worry about. However, he also said he may be looking at some hefty labor costs down the line to hire hands to help pull the dead or dying apples from the vine to make space for the others.

Along with apple problems, Marker said it’s his peaches and plums that took the worst of the frosty weather. He said his peach stock is down to about 15 percent of what he planted.

“Peaches don’t like that 20-degree weather,” Marker said.

Marker, Rinker and Bullock said the situation could have been worse, given those cold April days.

“All in all, our glass is half full,” Marker said.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com