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Tough days for southern Minnesota apple farmers

ALSO: UMD measures flood effects on Lake Superior; dust ignites fire in Fairmont soybean plant; teens steal from 100 cars in western Minnesota; and more.

Julie Buntjer’s lede in the Worthington Daily Globe sums it up nicely: “From an early bloom to an April frost, May storms and summer drought, this year has been one to remember, or in some cases forget, for southwest Minnesota’s apple orchards.” Stonegate Orchard, north of Slayton, estimates it will end up with just 20 percent of its typical apple harvest. “Our biggest problem was the freeze that we had (April 9 and 10),” said Gail Byers. “The trees were blossoming and budding out … after we had the warm temperatures in February.” At the Dayton Avenue Orchard, south of Adrian, owner Randy Wolf says he’ll have about 1 percent of his normal crop. Wolf has about 450 mature trees in his orchard, with more trees planted in the last two years. Most of the crop was lost after the early April freeze, when Wolf said temperatures at his orchard dropped to 19 degrees. The apples that did develop after the freeze were then hampered by a 70-mile-per-hour wind storm on May 27. There are some orchards faring better this year. Aaron Nystrom of Nystrom Orchards, near Worthington, said his Connell Reds and Zestars took a hit, but there’s still a good crop of Honey Crisps. 

3M’s New Ulm plant has been instrumental in developing the company’s new light bulb, an environmentally friendly LED  bulb that can burn a full 25 years, writes Kevin Sweeney of the New Ulm Journal. The bulb burns brightly while using very little electricity. It will cost about $25, but will more than pay for itself with lower energy costs over its lifetime. New Ulm plant manager John Illikman said the plant has been working with 3M Laboratories on the design and prototype. 3M has not made a final decision on where the bulb will be made in the long run, but Illikman said he is hoping his plant’s experience with the product would make it a natural choice. “That’s what we’re working on, to do this well so we’ll be first in line,” said Illikman. “It will mean some good jobs wherever they decide to make it.”

University of Minnesota Duluth researchers will be using technology usually used in oceans to measure this summer’s flood on Lake Superior, reports Jana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News TribuneThe researchers will place two “moored proofing platforms” on the bottom of the lake for year-round data collection, something that hasn’t been done before because of the difficulty of going out onto the lake for data during the winter, said Jay Austin, a researcher with UMD’s Large Lakes Observatory. The platforms detect things like temperature, depth, currents, light intensity and amount of oxygen. Researchers have been documenting water quality of the lake among other things since the flood, when more than 9 inches of rain washed sand, dirt, mud, clay, entire trees and garbage into Lake Superior. As for long-term effects, “we don’t know what’s going to happen in the ecosystem and the lake response. UMD’s status as both a land-grant and sea-grant institution “almost compels them to do this kind of research,” University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said. “Nobody else is going to be getting this kind of fundamental information that is dramatically in the public good.”

Firefighters battled a blaze that resulted from a dust explosion in the prep area of the CHS soybean-processing plant in Fairmontwrote Jenn Brookens of the Fairmont Sentinel. The fire expanded to the conveyor system and there was concern about the fire spreading into the extraction portion of the facility, which contains explosive hexane gas, said Fairmont Fire Chief Doug Borchardt. “We were able to get it cut off from there, and then it was a matter of putting out the smoldering spots. We got the call around 1:53 p.m. and we cleared the scene at 7:25 p.m.” One employee was treated for minor burns at the scene, while two Fairmont firefighters received minor injuries. The plant opened in 2003, crushes more than 110,000 bushels per day and employs about 40 people.

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According to Kandiyohi County Sheriff Dan Hartog, four teens, one adult and three juveniles were identified as suspects in thefts after the group was found breaking into a vehicle around 3:30 a.m. Monday in Kandiyohi, reports the West Central Tribune in Willmar. The teens told investigators they had gone through more than 100 vehicles in Litchfield, Grove City, Atwater and Kandiyohi on Sunday evening and early Monday morning. A search warrant was executed on the vehicle they were driving and officers located numerous car chargers for cell phones and other electronic equipment, iPods, iPads, folding knives, multi-purpose tools, GPS devices and a small amount of cash.

Mankato’s four-day RibFest drew an estimated 20,623 people over its four-day run, the Mankato Free Press reported. “We saw an eye-opening increase in the number of people and sales at RibFest,” Burt Lyman, executive director of the civic center, said in a press release.