Temperature data loggers, situated at various locations within our research farm in Winchester, VA, have documented temperatures as low as 18F this morning (March 20, 2023). In several fruit-growing regions across the state, temperatures in the range of 14-18 F have also been recorded, resulting in a severely detrimental hard freeze, causing considerable damage to most fruit trees in Virginia, including apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, and plums.
Upon assessing the damage to our blocks, we were surprised to find that our apple cultivars, which were transitioning from half-inch green to tight clusters, exhibited severe damage to both king and side blooms. In both Pink Lady and Gala, we recorded a staggering 87% flower damage in king blooms and 60% damage in side blooms. Peach flowers (mostly at the pink stage) sustained damage ranging between 20 to 70%, while sweet cherry flowers (mostly at the tight cluster stage) sustained damage around 80%. Given that our location is approximately 10-14 days behind most of the other orchards in central and southwest Virginia with regards to flower development, the presented figures offer only a glimpse into the overall extent of the damage caused across the state.
While we maintain hope that our other apple cultivars, currently in the green-tip and ¼ inch green stages, have survived the freeze, a comprehensive assessment of the buds’ survival can only be performed later, once they have grown larger. I have included some images below that you can use as a guide to determine the extent of damage to your orchards.