Climate Change in the Midwest: Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation

By S. C. Pryor | Go to book overview

8.
Michigan’s Tart Cherry Industry:
Vulnerability to Climate Variability and Change

J. A. WINKLER, J. A. ANDRESEN, J. M. BISANZ, G. GUENTCHEV,
J. NUGENT, K. PIROMSOPA, N. ROTHWELL, C. ZAVALLONI,
J. CLARK, H. K. MIN, A. POLLYEA, AND H. PRAWIRANATA


introduction

While commercial fruit production is a small fraction of the total agricultural output in the United States, it has major economic impacts at the local and regional level. This is particularly true for agricultural sites in the Midwest where the Great Lakes have a moderating influence on climate, allowing for commercial fruit production at relatively high latitudes for a continental location. Tart cherry production is of particular significance in the Great Lakes region. In 2009, 292 million pounds of tart cherries, or 80 percent of the national total, were produced in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (NASS 2010). Of this amount, 266 million pounds were produced in Michigan alone. In 2004–2008, cash receipts for Michigan tart cherries ranged from $34,697,000 to $63,030,000 (NASS 2009). Tart cherries are grown in three primary areas in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan (Figure 8.1). Over 50 percent of the statewide production occurs in the Northwest region, where tart cherries are the dominant fruit crop (Black et al. 2010). In contrast, fruit production is more diversified in the west central and southwest growing regions.

In comparison to cereal crops, the potential impacts of climate variability and change on commercial fruit production have not been as widely studied, in spite of the sensitivity of fruit trees to climate variations and the greater relative exposure of fruit production to a fluctuating climate given the perennial nature of fruit trees. In general, deciduous fruit trees lose their leaves and begin a cold hardening stage in early fall before becoming dormant in late fall. They remain dormant until early spring when the trees gradually lose their cold tolerance. Perennial fruit trees are vulnerable to cold damage at three distinct stages: (1) in the fall before the tree is adequately hardened, (2) during the winter dormant period when severe cold events can freeze flower buds and cause injury to woody tissue, and (3) during spring bloom when temperatures

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