Determining whether cold temperatures damaged fruit buds
By David G. Hallauer
Meadowlark Extension District Agent
How cold did it get? Think it got the buds on your fruit trees? Let’s hope not, but if you are suspicious (particularly on trees in those low lying areas where it stayed cool the longest), here’s a good way to check: Get a sharp knife or razor blade to cut buds in half, starting at the base and cutting upward. If the pistil in the center is greenish-white to cream color, you’ve likely avoided damage. If dark brown or black, it has been killed.
Make sure you cut a number of buds and calculate the percentage killed if you have loss. It may not end up being that big of a deal. Peaches and apples, for example can benefit from a loss of buds. They tend to require thinning to get top quality fruit anyway (typically, we want an apple and average of every four inches and a peach and average of every six to eight inches on a branch). This can often be achieved with only 10 percent of the original buds developing fruit.
For most of us, temperatures would only have been damaging to fruit trees at or near full bloom; contact your District Extension Office for a list of damaging temperatures for your fruit species if you think you got that low.
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