Nova Scotia

Apple growers bitten by frost brace for more low temperatures

Annapolis Valley fruit growers are fearing significant crop damage following Sunday’s overnight frost. Now they await the prospect of more freezing temperatures tonight.

Not all crops damaged, but a reduced harvest is expected

Sunday's frost caused some damage to the Annapolis Valley apple crop. (Larry Lutz)

Apple producers in the Annapolis Valley, among many others, will be on alert tonight.

People who already have delicate plants in the ground are being warned that another night of possible sub-zero temperatures could result in more frost damage across Nova Scotia, according to Environment Canada.

Temperatures are expected to drop near, or below, the freezing mark with clear skies and light winds.

"That's the kind of combination that's really good for producing frost," said Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Hubbard.

Hubbard said frost in early June is not unexpected. Overnight temperatures are expected to be warmer on Friday and Saturday.

Peter Sanford, an apple grower in Coldbrook, estimates 75 per cent of his crop has been damaged. He won't know the full extent until the apples start to grow.

Larry Lutz says the Annapolis Valley apple harvest will be hurt by a recent frost, but there is no need for panic. More cold temperatures are expected tonight. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Many of the blossoms in his 50-hectare orchard turned black overnight on Sunday when temperatures plummeted from the high 20s in parts of the region on Friday to –3 C two days later.

Apples that survive the frost may not make it market if they turn out to have scarring or rusting, Sanford said.

"We just carry on," Sanford said.

He said his trees are on a hill and he can only imagine the hardship for the growers at lower elevation.

Larry Lutz, president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association, said some crops suffered nearly 100-per-cent damage along the valley floor in Waterville, Annapolis Royal, South Berwick and Coldbrook. Crops in upper regions along North and South Mountain fared better, including the Lutz family farm in Rockland, near Berwick.

Most apple trees have just bloomed and are now in the critical early stages of fruit growing. Pictured hear are healthy blossoms not affected by frost. (Craig Paisley/CBC)
He said the damage was heightened by the duration of Sunday's frost.

"The problem with this event is the temperature in the lower areas dropped below freezing by midnight and it was still freezing by 6 a.m.," Lutz said.

"Frosts aren't uncommon but if it just dips below freezing for half an hour and pops right back up your injury is far less."

Lutz said his crop will be down, but he'll still have some apples at harvest time.

"We don't want people to think that all of the sudden this will be a disaster for the industry," Lutz said.

Vineyards hit hard

Vineyards are looking at possible losses of at least 50 per cent of this year's grape crop following Sunday's frost.

But the news isn't all bad.

The wines produced could be of a higher quality because of secondary and tertiary buds, said Gerry McConnell of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia.

"These buds can allow for some significant recovery," he said. "As the plants concentrate on fewer fruit clusters, there will be the potential for a qualitative upside for the '18 vintage."

McConnell anticipates significant damage to grape plants, but said two to three weeks will be needed to fully assess the new buds.

With files from Paul Palmeter