Category Archives: Frost/Freeze Damage

Risk of Frosts this Week

The weather forecasts for the coming week show three days with potential frosts. For Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service is forecasting a low of 29F in Winchester and a low of 30F in Tyro. I’m sure other locations in VA are also at risk of frost.

In the Winchester area, apples are 1/4″ green tip with some cultivars showing pink. Peaches are at first pick to some early blooming cultivars having a few open flowers. The phenology in Central VA is a bit more advanced, with peaches having been in bloom for nearly two weeks. According to the critical temperature charts, we can expect a small amount of damage from these temperatures but not a complete crop failure.  So, fingers crossed that it doesn’t get any colder than predicted. However, even if flowers are not killed by the frosts, there is also the risk of russets and frost rings. Temperatures are forecasted to warm up towards the end of the week.

Below are  links for the Washington State University fact sheets (as pdfs) on the critical temperatures for flower buds:

Michigan State University has adapted the WSU critical temperature fact sheets into this easy-to-read fact sheet.

MSU has also put together an excellent set of resources about freezes and frosts in fruit crops.

Additionally, work done by Dr. Steve McArtney (NCSU) and others has shown that applications of Promalin (gibberellin 4+7 plus the cytokinin 6-BA) at 25 ppm immediately following a frost event may help increase fruit set and cropping. In essence, the Promalin sends signals to the developing fruit that the seeds are still intact and growing, even though the frost has killed the embryo. The result is a crop of parthenocarpic (seedless) fruit. This “rescue treatment” is not a full proof way of setting a crop, and it is still unclear under what environmental conditions and for which cultivars it works best. If the temperatures drop much below 28F, each grower will have to make a decision as to whether or not it is worth trying to rescue the crop with Promalin.

You can read more about the “rescue treatment” with Promalin in this Good Fruit Grower article.

Fruit Bud Damage in the Winchester Area

The winter of 2013-14 will surely go down as one of the colder, snowier winters in recent years. Many growers have been asking about potential flower bud damage from the cold temperatures that we’ve had. As a general rule-of-thumb, peach and sweet cherry buds are hardy to about -10F, and near complete bud loss and perhaps some branch damage will happen when temperatures are below -20F. As I mentioned in a previous post, plants are not affected by wind chills, so we are talking about absolute cold temperatures, which will be warmer than the wind chill temperatures that are reported in weather reports. Apples and pears are generally hardy down to -25F. However, hardiness is much less when: there is a warm spell preceding the cold temperatures, when trees have already been pruned, when the cold temperatures persist for an extended period of time, or when trees were under water or nutrient stress in the previous season. Under these circumstances, peach and sweet cherry buds might be damaged at 0F or even warmer. During this past winter, peach buds may have been killed during multiple events.

Looking at the absolute cold temperatures from August 1 to present, we see that many of the fruit growing regions in the mid-west and Northeast likely have moderate to significant damage to their peach and sweet cherry crops.


Zooming into the Mid-Atlantic, we see that there were some areas along the western edge of Virginia that sustained temperatures below -10F this winter. Many other areas of Virginia have had temperatures in the minus single digits.


To get an idea of how much peach bud damage is in the Winchester area, last week my lab  collected 10 peach branches from each of seventeen different blocks of peaches. Many of the blocks were located at the AREC, but we also collected branches from some nearby farms. The branches were kept in a vase at room temperature for 24 hours, and then every bud on every branch was dissected from the tip to the base to look for damage. Healthy buds are green and look moist, while damaged bud are brown and translucent.

Table 1. Peach bud damage from the winter of 2013-14. Branches were collected on March 4 and analyzed on March 5.


Percent of Flower Buds Alive on Shoot

Total Number of Buds Dissected


83.0 317


30.8 289

Loring 1

0.5 195

Loring 2

0.0 180

Loring 3

91.0 144

Red Haven 1

94.1 187

Red Haven 2

92.5 253

Red Haven 3

83.2 232

Red Haven 4

96.0 173

Red Haven 5

97.8 90

Red Haven 6

86.6 313


0.0 197


65.0 163

Sugar Giant

79.0 372

Sweet Breeze

41.7 103


45.9 204


50.0 142

From these data it is clear that there are both variety and site differences in bud damage. A few blocks are likely to have no or little fruit this year, but most blocks have the potential to set a full crop. Remember that it only takes 15-40% of the buds to make a full crop. The bottom line is that before you prune, it would be a good idea to assess how much damage you have in your trees. Only in situations where severe bud damage occurred should growers leave extra wood when pruning.

Penn State did a similar analyses of peach buds, and found that only 22-32 percent of the peach buds were dead at the Biglerville Fruit Lab.

MaluSim Carbohydrate Models: 2013 Season Recap for Winchester and Central Virginia

Slide3 Slide3Attached are the final MaluSim carbohydrate models that I will run for 2013.

Please print out a copy of the below pdf file to add to your records. Later in the season, I will be asking for feedback from you about how you used the model, how well the model predicted thinner response in your orchard, and if I should continue running the model in future years. Please feel free to send me additional feedback at anytime.

Peck Central VA MaluSim 5_29_13

Peck Winchester VA MaluSim 5_28_13

MaluSim Carbohydrate Models for May 16: Winchester and Central Virginia

MaluSim models were run on May 16 for Winchester and Central Virginia.


As I spoke about at the Winchester breakfast meeting on Thursday morning, the Winchester forecast is calling for warm and cloudy weather starting today and running through most of next week. From many year’s of research, we know that these are the conditions under which there is a fair amount of natural thinning and that chemical thinners can be particularly active. When the weather data is run through the MaluSim model, we see that there is a carbohydrate deficit between -40 to -60 g CHO/day predicted for the next 10 days. This means that chemical thinners that are applied over the next several days will likely be fairly active. With this in mind, growers should consider reducing rates and/or not using a surfactant. Growers with blocks that sustained freeze damage on Tuesday morning, should consider further reducing rates. As always, you should be checking your trees and making decisions based upon the conditions in your own orchard.

For Central Virginia (Piney River), the carbohydrate deficits over the next week will remain in the negative, but not be as low as the Winchester area. This means that chemical thinners applied from today through the weekend will likely be slightly aggressive when used at standard rates. Growers should be regularly checking their blocks for current conditions. By now, you should be able to see some effect of the cloudy weather that the region experienced early last week.

Here are the pdf files that contain the weather data and the MaluSim models:

Peck Central VA MaluSim 5_16_13

Peck Winchester VA MaluSim 5_16_13


MaluSim Carbohydrate Models for May 13: Winchester and Central Virginia

Slide3Slide3The MaluSim carbohydrate model was run on May 13 for both Winchester and Central Virginia.

In Central Virginia, many later blooming cultivars are around 10 mm fruitlet size and can still be chemically thinned. From applications made over the past weekend, growers can expect average responses to chemical thinners. As we move through the week, greater and greater carbohydrate deficits are predicted, which will increase the potency of chemical thinners.

For Winchester, the model is predicting mild carbohydrate deficits early in the week, and much more severe deficits towards the end of the week and over the weekend. Applications made this past weekend through the middle of the week will likely have an average to slightly aggressive response. However, applications make towards the end of the week may result in very aggressive thinning activity. If the weather forecasts hold up, growers should consider reducing rates for applications made towards the end of the week.

I will run the model again on Thursday, May 16.

Fruitlet sizes from the Winchester AREC:

  • Honeycrisp: 8.8 mm
  • York: 8.0 mm
  • Fuji: 8.6 mm
  • Suncrisp: 8.4 mm
  • Pink Lady: 9.2 mm
  • Empire: 11.8 mm

One more note, there are widespread frost/freeze predictions for most of Virginia for Tuesday morning. If a significant frost/freeze event occurs, growers should be cautious with their thinning applications until they can assess if damage has occurred. However, the forecast for Winchester predicts the temperature will only go to 32F, which will not be cold enough to cause significant damage. The forecast for fruit growing regions to the south of Winchester appears to be in the mid-30s to low 40s.

To see more information, click on the linked pdf files below:

Peck Winchester VA MaluSim 5_13_13

Peck Central VA MaluSim 5_13_13

Potential for Cold Temperature Damage in Northern VA

The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures to drop to 22F by the morning of April 4 in the Winchester area. For the bud phenology that I’ve seen in the area, we will probably be spared from having very much damage.

Apples are still dormant with a few early blooming cultivars at silver or green tip. Even at green tip, there should only be 10% damage when temperatures drop to 18F. Peaches with a little pink showing may be susceptible to a low level ~10% of damage. Cherries are still in stage 1 or 2, and should be able to withstand temperatures down to 17F with minimal damage. So, fingers crossed that it doesn’t get any colder than predicted. Temperatures are forecasted to be more “spring-like” next week!

Here are pdf links for the Washington State University fact sheets on the critical temperatures for flower buds:

Additionally, Michigan State University has adapted the WSU critical temperature fact sheets into this easy-to-read fact sheet.

MSU has also put together an excellent set of resources about freezes and frosts in fruit crops.