Wet weekend causes trouble for apple crop

apple orchard, sprayer
A sprayer at Nick Schweitzer's apple farm. (May 1, 2017)

SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — Heavy rains in West Michigan are causing some problems for farmers.

Earlier this week, fifth-generation farmer Nick Schweitzer of Sparta sprayed his 215 acres of apple trees with a fungicide after rain washed much of it away over the weekend.

“Whatever we put out for our cover spray before the rain, it’s gone. Usually over an inch of rain, any materials you’re putting out over the trees, you know it’s gone after that,” he explained to 24 Hour News 8. “We’re just trying to cover back up to make sure we can kind of prevent any of those ascospores from infecting any of new green tissues so we can keep our crop.”

Ascospores are apple scabs that show up as lesions on the leaves and fruit. They can infect all of his crop if he doesn’t keep reapplying the fungicide after the rain washes it away.

The mist also protects against the cold. While Wednesday morning is expected to stay above freezing, there could be a frost next week.

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“One indicator of any frost damage on the apple would be what are called front strings and it’s kind of brown streak that’s just from that tissue cells that (are) damaged during that cold event,” Schweitzer said.

The spraying is a muddy task that needs to get done every year.

“It’s a year-to-year thing,” Schweitzer said. “Some years are better than others where it’s drier and we’re able to get a little bit more done because we’re trying to keep everything covered and protected from scabs.”