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The Breton orchard victim of repeated late frosts – Economy


The thermometer dropped to 2.5 ° C below zero, during the night from Thursday to Friday, in the orchards of Kermao, in Gouesnac’h (29). A late frost, occurring after several days of hot weather, the consequences of which will be measured precisely in the month of June, at fruit set, when the emerging fruits appear on the fruit trees. “The temperature was measured between -2 and -2.5 ° C for several hours, at tree height. It could have an impact on some early varieties, ”fears Marine Saliou.

For the moment, in the orchard, at the stage of flower development, Brieug, her husband, does not notice anything abnormal on the branches of this plot where the couple of apple and cider producers keep some old varieties. Here, only one of the fifteen varieties could have a lower yield at harvest next fall.

“Unlike other production regions, the frost occurred early enough to limit the damage,” says Marine Saliou.

Every two years

One month before the Ice Saints, this spring cold snap reminds Breton producers of the last devastating episodes of 2017 and 2019. Two years ago, the Orchards of Kermao had lost nearly 50% of the production of the 17 hectares of apple trees. . After a big episode of freezing in 2017, the pace seems to be settling. “Early frost tends to be more frequent,” growers note. Not necessarily in relation to the calendar, but in relation to the flowering which occurs almost two weeks in advance, due to increasingly mild winters, a sign of a global warming.

In 2019, despite the measurements of the operating weather station and the findings on apple trees by the State services, Gouesnac’h was not included in the list of 80 municipalities in Finistère which had benefited from recognition of a state of agricultural calamity.

Adapt to global warming?

So, Marine and Brieug Saliou will continue to scrutinize the weather forecast over the coming weeks. Particularly when the conditions will be similar to those of the night from Wednesday to Thursday. Beyond the temperature, the absence of wind tends to accentuate the phenomenon, due to the lack of mixing of the wind. “In these conditions the cold stagnates”, explains Marine Saliou, also a volunteer at the Cidref, the Cider Development and Research Committee from Fouesnant and Finistère.

These repeated episodes of early frost lead the profession to seriously consider equipping itself with means of reducing the impact of frost on apple trees. From there to see the braziers or candles light up spring nights Breton orchards? Not necessarily. Other solutions, such as air mixing by wind turbines, are possible. Brieug Saliou also imagines turning to later varieties, if the phenomenon were to repeat itself quickly.

Investments that are impossible in the current economic situation. Since the fall, the closure of restaurants once again deprives Breton cider makers of half of their activity.

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