Warm weather could be damaging to sugar, apple industries - WNEM TV 5

Warm weather could be damaging to sugar, apple industries

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

Michigan Sugar said the recent stretch of unseasonable warmth is starting to wear on its sugar beets.

A mountain high of sugar beets was almost destroyed by the warmest February in 100 years.

"It's obviously been an extremely warm temp winter. We will obviously have a little more challenge this winter," said Ray Vandriessche, director of community/government relations for Michigan Sugar.

The cold winter air typically acts as a freezer for the beets until they are ready to be processed into sugar. With the warmer temperatures it's like leaving a freezer door open and allowing the beets to spoil.

The piles of beets need a little extra help to stay cool, which comes in the form of giant fans.

"When that pile gets to a certain temperature, if the ambient air outside is cool enough it will kick on and blow cool air through the piles to let them be in much better shape," Vandriessche said.

However, some beets will get too warm and not make the cut. They will be used as a fertilizer, but sugar beets aren't the only industry in the area worried about the impact of the February thaw.

"If it's warm like it's been, it'll bloom before long and then if we get a freeze it'll wipe it out," said Alan Sprunger, owner of Apple Valley Orchards.

Sprunger said despite the recent warm up, the trees at Apple Valley Orchards haven't shown any signs of blooming. That would have been a recipe for disaster with the temperature drop expected this weekend.

That happened a few years ago and it shut the store down for the season.

"It was really early spring and everything bloomed and looked great. Though, man, this will be great. Then we got a freeze and it wiped everything out," Sprunger said.

If that happens this year it means no apples, no caramel apples and certainly no cider.

For the sugar beets, another warm up shouldn't do too much damage.

"We put our plans in place to deal with these things and because we have this technology in place, the impact should be very minimal," Vandriessche said.

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