Midwest drought could bring early, but expensive apples

Midwest drought could bring early, but expensive apples

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While the drought is devastating farmers across the Midwest, some have gotten lucky. In fact, the apple crop in Minnesota is running two weeks ahead of schedule.

So if there's an upside to the unusual weather of 2012, you'll be able to get those delicious Minnesota apples about two weeks sooner.

"This is one of the earliest harvests that I've seen in 30 plus years here, and that goes back to that early spring we had," said University of Minnesota apple breeder David Bedford.

But you could be paying more for those tasty apples. Bedford says the biggest challenge for apple orchards was a warm spring followed by a late frost.

"We had 21 degrees here for two nights during bloom," Bedford said. "And that should have been the end of apples as we know then here."

But while some apple growers dodged a bullet, others were not so lucky. Statewide, the apple crop will be down about 50 percent, which could mean higher prices. Meanwhile the extreme drought across the Midwest has driven corn prices up 60 percent.

"Some of those areas are down 30 inches in annual moisture.," said FOX 9 chief meteorologist Ian Leonard.

What some are calling a "flash drought" is the worst since 1988, but still a far cry from the dust bowl days of the 1930s .

"So, it's a severe deficit but might be a situation that's not long-term," said Dave Nicolai with the University of Minnesota extension services.

Nicolai says what's not a total loss will translate to a more than 10 percent drop in corn and soybean yields nationwide. But more than half of Minnesota farmers could cash in on the value of their crop with better than an average year.

"What saved the majority of corn in Minnesota this year was one of the wettest springs we've ever had," Leonard said. "April and May quite literally saved the saved the corn crop this year. Not for everybody, but for most Minnesota farmers.

And while the unusual weather of 2012 certainly hurt many farmers, as a researcher Bedford says he'll be closely watching the effect it'll have.

"We've been breeding apples for over 100 years here," he said. "And in that period we've seen some cold years some wet years. So this is one of those years we'll remember and make some good notes from for sure."

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