Mild winter was a sign of trouble for Hudson Valley agriculture
It’s the first day of spring at Fishkill Farms, with bluebird skies, sunshine and best of all for farmer Mark Doyle: Cold.
“Nothing to complain about there,” he said as we walked toward the orchard. “We have to keep that temperature down.”
It has not been a typical winter. The first significant snow did not occur until late February, and that month the highest temperature recorded each day in Poughkeepsie was six degrees warmer on average than usual. In January, it was 8 degrees warmer. More troublesome, the average low temperature in January was 12 degrees higher than usual.
In this special report, we will look at the effect of mild winters — which scientists attribute to our warming planet — on three local crops. Maple farmers must tap earlier in the season, only to produce less syrup. Corn farmers will likely have to contend with multiple generations of pests who survive the winter with voracious appetites. And the flowering fruit trees tended by Doyle are tricked into setting up buds early, which are more likely to be killed by any late frost.
Asked what else is under threat by mild winters, Doyle replied: “Our sanity, probably.”