Great Lakes region fruit growers won’t soon forget 2012, the year that Mother Nature, for the first time in the lifetimes of all but a few, froze them out of the fruit business. But the effects of this forced vacation from fruit production will linger on into 2013—something that will be a theme in presentations during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market Expo December 4-6 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The first fruit-related educational ­session on Tuesday morning is titled “weather risk management in tree fruit.”

Michigan climatologist Jeff Andresen kicks it off with a look back at the growing season—and the possible implications of weather extremes and climate trends for the future of fruit production in the Great Lakes region.

Growers who had some fruit this year claimed it was because they used wind machines or irrigation for frost protection, and two speakers will address the costs, ­considerations, and various methods for protecting fruit from spring freezes.

In the first apple session on Tuesday afternoon, the first day of Expo, Michigan State University entomologist Larry Gut will review the insect pressure of this year and examine how it may affect pest management in 2013. MSU horticulturist Jim Flore will look into other horticultural implications. This year, trees grew fruit-free, an invigorating experience, but they were affected by hot, dry summer weather that added a late-season stress.

MSU plant pathologist George Sundin will address fireblight, and Cornell University’s David Rosenburger will discuss scab management and powdery mildew control.

Apple thinning

Fruit researchers across the eastern United States were in the final stages of perfecting use of a carbohydrate model for predicting the response of apples to chemicals used for thinning—but there was little opportunity for research this year.

Given this season’s short crop, growers are expecting a big crop next year—and they will need to thin it heavily.

Thinning has a session all to itself on Thursday afternoon. It’s called, optimistically, “thinning the record 2013 apple crop.”

Jim Schupp, from the horticulture department at Pennsylvania State University, joins Michigan State University Extension educators Phil Schwallier and Amy Irish-Brown in a review of factors that affect thinning response, windows of thinning opportunity, and recommendations for thinning a potentially heavy apple crop in the Great Lakes region.

Grower interest in risk management was much enhanced by the 2012 weather—freezes followed by drought—and several talks at a Thursday morning session address apple, sweet cherry, and tart cherry crop insurance.

Apple growers have access to crop insurance, sweet cherry growers had a pilot program in two Michigan counties that will now be expanded to five more counties, and tart cherry growers have no insurance available.

Labor issues

Frank Gasparini, executive director of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, will begin a Wednesday morning program on farm labor. He will address agricultural labor policy and how it affects farmers’ ability to feed people.

Other speakers will address policies, enforcement issues, and procedures.

The Great Lakes Expo is a major event for fruit and vegetable growers, direct farm marketers, and greenhouse producers. Last year, more than 4,000 growers attended. A four-acre exhibit hall draws nearly 400 exhibitors.

Each year, an apple variety showcase is held late Tuesday afternoon. This year, it will feature selections from the Ohio Apple Improvement Association. The Expo runs three days at DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids. More information can be found at