April's freezing temperatures expect to impact apple crop

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BEDFORD COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Farmers are waiting out the cold weather to see the impact on production. The combination of warmer temperatures in March and this most recent bout of below-freezing temperatures is expected to damage some fruit crops.

Owners of Gross Orchard in Bedford County said the mixture of sunshine, wind and freezing temperatures across Southwest Virginia has caused some trees to blossom earlier than normal.

"Right now we have cherries in full bloom, we have peaches just passing bloom and apples almost in bloom," said Ronnie Gross with Gross Orchards. "It's a very vulnerable stage."

Gross said the number of bushels they'll harvest this season depends on factors such as the length of time the apple buds are exposed to freezing temperatures.

"I'm anticipating that we are going to have some damage this week," he said. "But we have to understand that 80 percent of the crop can be thinned out by cold weather and still have a full-production crop."

Gross said the orchard's location near the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains provides some relief from the colder weather.

"The valleys are acting like a big solar panel during the day time," he said. "We have seen the temperatures fluctuate as much as six to eight degrees, which is crucial".

Gross said consumers may see a much larger fruit this year, if crops thin out naturally. On the other hand, if the temperatures continue to drop, fewer apples may survive Mother Nature's wrath.

On Saturday, Gross Orchard will host the annual Apple Blossom Festival. It begins at 8 a.m.