When one is asked about their favorite part of the winter season, the answers tend not to focus on Arctic outbreaks or prolonged spells of cold weather. However, if you were to ask fruit and nut trees this same question you would get a much different result.

The chill our winter season brings is crucial for the sustainability of our fruit and nut crops across the United States. Those crops add up to be a $27 billion industry for our country. However, warmer winters and shorter cold spells could disrupt not only the growth of these crops but the local economies that depend on them. If these particular crops don’t have enough chill hours, also known as days below 45 degrees beginning November 1st, then they do not reach their full, tasty potential.

Many temperate fruit and nut trees need a period of winter chill in order to produce flowers and fruit each year. Without enough sustained chilling, the timing of bud break and pollination, and the quality or yield of fruit may be compromised. For example, grapes are the top fruit that stand to lose the most from the lack of winter’s chill especially in Fresno, California where this juicy fruit is a main crop.

The biggest fruit crop in our neck of the woods that needs a good winter’s chill to be successful includes apples. The Burlington area has experienced a slight decline in the winter chill category but not enough to disturb an entire crop. Nevertheless, this is a slippery slope and if the brakes aren’t put on this trend right away, we’ll likely see fruit and nut prices creeping higher and higher during every trip to the grocery store.