Michigan’s strawberry season could be in trouble this year due to higher than normal forecast temperatures.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Ernie Ostuno, summer temperatures expected this year will be above average, along with light precipitation.
This worries some strawberry growers.
John Felzke, owner of Felzke Farms, said strawberry season usually starts on June 4 or 5, but for his farm it didn’t start until June 10. Ideally, strawberry season lasts about 30 days, a said Felzke.
“Right now you’re only looking at a 20-21 day season,” Felzke said.
Huhn Strawberry Farm owner Christina Huhn said her berries are feeling the heat.
“They start to wilt and then they get heat stressed and you know plants are like any other living thing or person. When it’s stressed for a long time it’s not healthy so this heat affects everything,” Huhn said.
“They start to wilt and then they get heat stressed and you know plants are like any other living thing or person. When stressed for a long time it’s not healthy so that heat affects everything.
Christina Huhn, owner of Huhn Strawberry Farm
High temperatures cause berries to ripen faster, Huhn added.
“When it’s really hot, there’s no one here picking and the berries ripen faster than you can pick them,” she says.
It’s best to pick early in the morning, otherwise the berries might get too soft from the heat, Felzke said.
“You can’t pick in the heat of the day, because then the fruit becomes soft for you,” Felzke said.
With cooler temperatures, berries may ripen at a slower rate, allowing for a longer season. Size is another concern. When the berries ripen quickly, it also makes them smaller, Huhn explained.
“When we were harvesting, some of the first berries that came off were the size of a walnut or a golf ball,” Huhn said. “It’s very noticeable this week with the warm weather that the berries are…the size of a large marble or smaller,” she said.
And this size also has an effect on customers.
“Customers prefer to pick larger berries if they come to pick 20 or 30 pounds, it picks faster and easier than picking a lot of smaller berries,” Huhn said.
Huhn and Felzke say annual weather changes are a risk farmers need to take.
“It’s just something that happens. One week is cool, last week we had cool weather, this week we had warm weather, so we’re taking it as it comes,” Huhn said.
Both farms practice methods such as irrigation to help the berries, but with high temperatures this summer, Huhn said there’s a good chance this year’s strawberry season will end earlier than normal. .
Geneviève’s story is brought to you through a partnership between WKAR and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.
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