Sources throughout the state are forecasting that by the end of the year, New York state could see its lowest yield of many different fruits in years.
Prominent state crops, such as apples, grapes, peaches, pears, tart cherries and maple syrup are expected to bring anywhere from 30 to 80 percent less of a yield than normal, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department National Agricultural Statistics Service.
A weak winter and early season heat followed by freeze, in cooperation with season-long drought have contributed to making 2012 one of the worst growing seasons in recent history.
Employees at Schweizer Orchards sort apples that were recently harvested at their production facility in Amazonia, Mo., on Monday afternoon. Cory Schweizer, vice president of the company, said the business had to rely on irrigating their crops this year to off set the drought.
Out of all of the aforementioned industries, New York tart cherries seem to have the most bleak forecast. Gross yield of tart cherries is forecast at 1.1 million pounds; this forecast, if realized, would be 81 percent less than last year's production of 5.9 million pounds and 86 percent less than 2010.
The outlook for the rest of the country is equally ominous. The forecast tart cherry yield for the nation is currently 73.1 million pounds, 68 percent less than 2011 and 62 percent less than 2010.
Pear production in the state isn't looking much better. The state industry is forecast to produce 2,500 tons, which would account for a 79 percent decrease from 2011 and an overall record-low.
According to growers' reports, grape production in the state is expected to total 115,000 tons, which would represent a 39 percent decrease from 2011 and the lowest overall yield since 1977, when only 101,000 tons were produced.
However, loss of crop broken down by individual vineyards in the "grape belt" between routes 5 and 20 in northern Chautauqua County show even more disturbing losses.
According to Tim Weigle at the Lake Erie Regional Grape program, some vineyards located in the belt lost up to 96 percent of their total crop.
"What we did is we went through and looked at how many of the primary buds (on the vines) were lost," said Weigle. "Grape buds are made up of three buds, a primary bud, a secondary bud and a tertiary bud. The secondary bud will usually give you about a third of the potential crop if the primary bud is lost. The tertiary bud is for vegetative growth only. We looked at the low temperatures over nine sites, then after we rated the primary bud loss, we looked at the number of clusters on the vine and the number of berries in those clusters. We took that information and determined the crop potential as well as what the likely yield will be. Unfortunately some sites are looking at almost complete destruction of primary buds.
While some growers have crop insurance which can help in situations such as the ones growers are facing this year, unfortunately this is not the case for all growers.
Additionally, the state is forecast to produce 590 million pounds of apples, which would be down 52 percent from the 1.22 billion pounds produced in 2011 and is the lowest production estimate since 1948, when production was 564 million pounds.
And finally, while the state maple syrup industry seemed to be affected the least, it still is forecast to produce a yield of 360,000 gallons, which would be down 36 percent from the 564,000 gallons produced in 2011.