Canada/US Great Lakes Area Fruit Growers “Wipeout” Due to Extreme Spring. Deniers: “They Need More CO2”

May 18, 2012

The brown centre of an apple blossom indicates a bloom that would not result in an apple being produced following this spring’s unusual weather.

Elsewhere on the blog, we are still hearing that “CO2 is good for Plants”. Meanwhile, here in the reality based community….

Windsor Star, May 5: 

A catastrophic freeze has wiped out about 80 per cent of Ontario’s apple crop and has the fruit industry looking at losses already estimated at more than $100 million.

“This is the worst disaster fruit growers have ever, ever experienced,” Harrow-area orchard owner Keith Wright said Friday. “We’ve been here for generations and I’ve never heard of this happening before.

“This is unheard of … all fruit growing areas in the Great Lakes area, in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York State, Ontario, are all basically wiped out.”

Wright lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of apples and peaches Sunday morning when freezing temperatures killed the blossoms.

Warm temperatures caused fruit trees to bloom early and when temperatures plummeted Sunday morning it damaged or wiped out much of the $60-million apple crop and 20 to 30 per cent of Ontario’s $48-million tender fruit crop which includes peaches, cherries, pears, plums and nectarines.

Brian Gilroy, a Georgian Bay-area apple grower who is chairman of the Ontario Apple Growers, said the loss to fruit growers and the economy will easily be more than $100 million. On top of the lost yield or no crop at all, orchard workers and spinoff industries such as juice, packing, storage and farm supplies will be affected.

Gilroy said consumers will find locally grown apples pricey and difficult to find this fall. Some varieties of apples, such as Empire, will be very difficult to find.

Washington State has a good crop but consumers should expect apple prices to jump because all of northeastern North America was affected, he said.

Toronto Star: 

The early warm weather in March, followed by sudden flash freezes, has caused devastating losses to tender fruit and apple growers in a large part of southern Ontario.

Steve Smith says there are no blossoms on his apple trees in Port Elgin, about 40 kilometres southwest of Owen Sound, which means there will be no apples.

Agriculture specialist John Cline at the University of Guelph says the apple industry alone in Ontario is worth up to $400 million.

 Globe and Mail: 

Normally at this time of year, Steve Smith’s apple orchards would be awash in pink and white blossoms. But this spring, an unseasonably warm March followed by a series of freezing snaps have wiped out his entire crop.

“There’s nothing – not one blossom,” says Mr. Smith, owner of Smiths’ Apples and Farm Market in Port Elgin, Ont. Last year, his small farm, which generally does brisk business in pick-your-own apples, produced around 82,000 kilograms of apples. This year, he says he won’t likely produce a single apple.

“I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen anything like this,” he says.

Extreme weather over the past few months has had a devastating impact on fruit growers throughout Ontario, Quebec, and northeastern United States. Unusually warm temperatures in March coaxed fruit trees out of their winter dormancy early. Subsequent deep frosts, occurring as recently as late April, damaged the blossoms, crippling their ability to pollinate. In Ontario, the fruit industry is expecting to record tens of millions of dollars in losses, according to early estimates.

37 Responses to “Canada/US Great Lakes Area Fruit Growers “Wipeout” Due to Extreme Spring. Deniers: “They Need More CO2””

  1. witsendnj Says:

    From Bob Chewter’s first link:

    “Another complicating factor is ground level ozone due to air pollution, which damages plants. This is expected to rise in many regions over the coming decades and could reduce or even negate the beneficial effects of higher CO2 (see Climate change warning over food production).”

    It never fails to amaze me how the obsession with CO2 blinds people to the more immediate and existential threat from persistent, background tropospheric ozone, the level of which is inexorably increasing. The USDA and NASA estimate crop yield and quality losses from air pollution in the BILLIONS of dollars annually, and that’s just counting field crops like soybeans, corn, cotton, wheat and rice – not perennials and orchard products and maple syrup.

    I guess air pollution just isn’t as sexy to atmospheric physicists. You’d think that it would be of more interest to climate scientists and activists though, since trees are a major sink for CO2. Damage from ozone has left them defenseless against attacks from insects, disease and fungus. Shriveled roots are making them more vulnerable to drought and windthrow. Several recent meta-analysis have demonstrated that forests are in dieback all over the world.

    I wrote a little book about this problem which can be downloaded for free from dropbox:

    • pendantry Says:

      ty for the book link 🙂

      • witsendnj Says:

        You’re welcome! I wrote it because although there is an abundance of information from primary sources – research and government synthesis studies – it is typically so cautious and watered down that the real impact isn’t clear from reports like that of the Integrated Nitrogen Committee. So, I try to translate the bureaucratize:

        It’s quite similar to the gap between the IPCC consensus reports about climate, and what current scientific observations depict – the impacts are much, much worse and much, much faster than predicted.

    • otter17 Says:

      Is there a statement from one of the major scientific organizations calling attention to this issue of ozone? It would be good to add to my collection of papers, etc.

  2. Peter Mizla Says:

    weather which goes from cold to warm then back to cold always has a deleterious effect on flower/fruit bearing plants- or any kind of plant.

    The deniers do not seem to understand that short term growth will not stop damage to plants from heat or cold.

  3. daveburton Says:

    One of the greatest boons leading to improved agricultural productivity is increased atmospheric CO2. E.g., at 570 ppm CO2, “trees grew 26 percent more than those exposed to normal levels of carbon dioxide.” Similar studies with food crops show similar, and sometimes even more dramatic, results.

    That shouldn’t surprise you, because the scarcity of CO2 is the primary limiting factor for plant growth.

    On Venus and Mars nearly all the oxygen in the atmosphere is in the form of CO2. But on Earth, 99.8% of the oxygen in the atmosphere is in the form of O2, and only 0.04% is in CO2, even though fires and animal respiration are constantly producing CO2 from O2.

    Why do you think that is true, Peter? The correct answer is that it’s because CO2-hungry plants have stripped nearly all the CO2 from the atmosphere.

    If you believe something other than CO2 is really the limiting factor in plant growth, then why do you think that, although 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere is O2, CO2 levels are measured in mere parts-per-million? What causes CO2 levels to be so low in the Earth’s atmosphere, when they are so high in the atmospheres of Venus and Mars?

    • neilrieck Says:

      If your logic was correct, then there should be an explosion of plant life which would result in a fall in CO2. But we have not seen a growth explosion so what is going on?

      First off, you need to move beyond the grade school statement that “Plants convert CO2 to O2” which is is an oversimplification for kids. Check any college texts on the subject and you will notice that the first stage of photosynthesis involves the photolysis of H20 (H20 is split into H and O2; the plant keeps the H as well as the photon but discards the O2; this is the only stage where O2 is released). This is a critical step so if there is no water then there is no photosynthesis. But temperature provides another limiting factor: openings (stomata) on the plant’s leaf take in CO2 but this is a point where water can be lost. So when temperatures get above 86F, 80% of the plants on planet Earth close their stomata to conserve water. This means that the plant has gone off-line to save itself (can usually recover in the late afternoon or early morning provided the plant isn’t damaged)

      If you are interested in the science then click here:

      • Mike Says:

        he’s only interested in his version of the science which he basically pulls simultaneously from denier sites and his arse. Now you’ve responded to him, get your bullshit filters ready and be prepared for wave after wave of crap.

      • daveburton Says:

        neilreck wrote, “But we have not seen a growth explosion so what is going on?”

        I wouldn’t call 26% growth improvement for an additional 180 ppm CO2 an “explosion,” but we certainly have seen dramatically improved agricultural productivity over the last century as CO2 levels have increased by about 90 ppm.

        H2O is, of course, essential for plants, and hydrocarbon creation requires both H and C, but H2O is so plentiful that, even though there’s about 25x as much H2O in the atmosphere as CO2, plants don’t bother to scavenge H2O from the atmosphere.

        CO2 is what is in chronically short supply for plants, which is why many greenhouse operators run their greenhouses at 3-5 times normal atmospheric CO2 levels, for dramatically improved plant growth. Fortunately, as CO2 levels go up, most plants need fewer stomata and consume less water.

        Do you understand, Neil, why there is so much O2 and so little CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, when the opposite is true on lifeless planets like Venus and Mars? In Mars’ atmosphere, there’s more than 700 times as much oxygen locked up in CO2 as in O2. Venus’s atmosphere is 96.5% CO2 with essentially no O2 at all. But Earth’s atmosphere contains over 500x as much O2 as CO2. Do you know why?

        • greenman3610 Says:

          attributing the “green revolution” to co2 ignores the vast multiples of fossil fuel inputs and hybrid seeds introduced in the last 60 or 70 years – which would be the key factors, I am sure, that crop scientists would point to.
          If your claim is correct, we should have seen a growth spurt in non-cultivated forests, grasslands, etc – so please produce the evidence for that.

          • daveburton Says:

            The 20th century’s gains in agricultural productivity were not entirely, nor even primarily, due to increased CO2 levels, but the CO2 has helped.

            As I’m sure you know, Peter, there has been a lot more systematic study of agriculture than of non-cultivated growth, but there is evidence of improved non-cultivated plant growth.

            E.g., I’m sure you’re aware of the reforestation of America; e.g.:

            Then there are our surprisingly healthy grasslands. U.S. temperatures have been quite warm for a couple of decades, now, probably comparable to the 1930s dust bowl years. Yet there’s little sign of a new dust bowl. Why do you suppose that is?

          • greenman3610 Says:

            OK, now you are changing your story – you have implied all along that increased co2 is responsible for increased ag production. Now you are implying that co2 is responsible for “reforestation” in America.This is childish use of a talking point straight out of Rush Limbaugh.
            We cut the trees down. They grew back. I want to hear you seriously tell me that US forests were somehow starving for, or limited by, Co2, during the time when early settlers said a squirrel could travel from Maine to Mississipi without ever touching the ground.

    • daveburton Says:

      Minor correction: “99.8% of the oxygen in the atmosphere is in the form of O2” should say “excluding the oxygen tied up in H2O, 99.8%…”

  4. Alteredstory Says:

    This is why I advocate for a serious investment in indoor farming. At this point, it’s pretty clear that we’re not going to stop seeing dramatic changes this century, and decoupling agriculture from the seasonality it currently relies on, which no longer exists, seems to be a prudent step to take BEFORE we’re driven to it by the threat of mass starvation.

    • pendantry Says:

      I’d rather be an Eloi than a Morlock, myself…

      • Alteredstory Says:

        I never said anything about living underground or indoors, just about FARMING indoors. Not sure where you get the “Time Machine” scenario from that…

        • witsendnj Says:

          Aw, pendantry was just making a joke…I was going to make a crack about Soylent Green myself, but he beat me to it…

          • Alteredstory Says:

            Poe’s law – Considering the number of times I’ve had “we need to get off fossil fuels” interpreted as “All technology is evil and we must return to the neolithic lifestyle”, it’s just not possible to tell anymore >.>

    • daveburton Says:

      Since the Earth’s climate is always shifting, it is a safe assumption that it will continue to do so. But there’s no good reason to expect it to shift more or faster in this century than it has in the past.

      • omnologos Says:

        Dave – what one should say really is that there’s no good EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE SHOWING it ALREADY AS SHIFTED more or faster in this century than it has in the past.

      • Alteredstory Says:

        Dave, I know I’m likely talking to a wall here, but as has been mentioned MANY MANY TIMES on this blog and others, the current change is ALREADY unprecedented in both size and speed in the last few million years – CERTAINLY longer than humanity, let alone agriculture.

  5. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    Again we learn that our food requires well behaved weather and climate change does not lead to well behaved weather. The cold snap was only damaging because it was preceded by an abnormal warm spell, weather out of season.

    We need to build resilience, maybe even if it is at the cost of efficiency.

  6. Martin Lack Says:

    Deniers will always deal in false dichotomies but, just as the Grand Canyon was not sculpted with a carving knife and the Moon is not made of Swiss cheese, the consequences of increased CO2 in the atmosphere is not as simple as increased plant growth. End of story.

  7. omnologos Says:

    Yawn. I thought anecdotal evidence was so last year.

    • Alteredstory Says:

      I’m not sure you’ve got the definition of the word “anecdotal” right…

      Anecdotal evidence is something like “well, I heard there’s this farmer who lost a crop due to a freeze that one time”.

      It generally has no evidence to back it up.

      This event has some pretty solid evidence indicating that it did, in fact occur. Of course, you MIGHT think that this is an example of apple farmers using climate change as an excuse for jacking up the price of Canadian apples, but then you run into the problem of evidence again.

      Now, this, by itself, is only one data point, and does not necessarily constitute a pattern, but you didn’t make THAT argument. You took hard evidence and called it anecdotal.

      It doesn’t help your ability to be taken seriously when you make mistakes like that. Maybe get some training in science?

  8. neilrieck – Of course you are not expecting any response that refers to even a college textbook from a denier, are you? That’s OK. Its what we learn from knowledge and investigation that matters, not responding to deluded arguments. As many have pointed out, it is irrelevant how CO2 affects plants that have already closed their stomata due to heat. Growth is stymied. Plants are dying of drought, flood, insect infestation, and ozone. Much like animals, weather extremes and climate shifts brought on by global warming are having deleterious effects. It is quite natural that a world ecosystem response to AGW is difficult to fully appreciate since it affect every living thing, from coral, to bees, to trees.

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