Climate Change Causes Early Apple Harvest And Concern In NH

BY ON September 7, 2012

Small girl wearing a Moms Clean Air Force t-shirt and carrying a basket of apples

This post was written by Maureen Reno, an environmental economist and mom from Derry, NH:

The other day, my spouse and I decided to take our four-year-old daughter late-season blueberry picking. Upon our arrival, and to our surprise, we saw that the apple trees at this particular orchard were nearly picked over. Considering that it was mid-August, we had not planned to pick apples until September. My daughter ran to the apple trees attempting to climb a ladder left for picking the dregs. She was deciding our fruit picking and baking plans.

Apparently, local farmers were not taken by surprise by this year’s early harvest. In fact, they knew as early as March when the unseasonably warm weather tricked the trees to prematurely bloom. Then, the frost returned damaging some of the trees, resulting in losses in production of up to 30 percent for some local growers. According to experts at the New Hampshire’s Department of Agriculture and the University of New Hampshire, that March warm spell also yielded an early harvest. Other local apple growers do not blame the frosts for their problems; it’s the lack of water and pests that are the real culprits. Farmers have had to buy water to irrigate thirsty trees. The hot and dry conditions also attract Japanese beetles. The cost associated with protecting produce is passed to customers in the form of higher prices.

Another pressure on local apple prices is demand from growers in other states, who were not so lucky this year. Hail, due to extreme weather events, has decimated fruit production in New York and Minnesota. Michigan lost about 90 percent of its crop after a rare heat wave in March caused trees to sprout blooms that were killed during later frosts and freezes, according to the Huffington Post. The federal government declared the state a disaster area in July because of damage to fruit crops from the erratic spring, making growers eligible to seek low-interest loans.

What does this mean for New Hampshire moms? Fewer apples nationwide leads to higher prices even in New Hampshire, as hard hit growers look to New Hampshire orchards to meet orders. Moms and dads should be concerned that other food items are getting more expensive as a result of changing weather patterns and extreme weather events.

Maureen Reno and her daughterEarlier springs and erratic weather has been a growing trend, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over the last several decades, the Northeast has experienced noticeable changes in weather patterns. The EPA states that, since 1970, the average annual temperature rose by two degrees Fahrenheit. This means that New Hampshire’s summers could be as warm as North Carolina’s summers are today by the end of this century, according to a 2009 study by the US Global Change Research Program. The study also finds that these climate changes are linked to increases in carbon emissions. If left unchecked, this may render large portions of the northeast unsuitable for growing some fruits and crops, such as apples.

Let’s help protect local agriculture by asking New Hampshire’s Representatives and Senators to support strong carbon standards!


TOPICS: Food, New Hampshire