Frosted fruits don’t mean a bad harvest


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Despite a series of cold snaps in April, most of Oregon’s Columbia Gorge fruit crop seems to have survived intact.

 

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{safe_alt_text} COLUMBIA GORGE Despite a series of cold snaps in April, most of Oregon’s Columbia Gorge fruit crop seems to have survived intact.

Earlier news reports warned that the unusually cold weather could decimate the region’s valuable apple, pear and cherry crops, which would then raise prices at the market and endanger the solvency of some growers.

Cherries in Wasco County were hit a little harder than pears and apples in the Hood River area, says Jeff Heater, chairman of the Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers association. Though one farm did lose up to 90% of its crop, 40 growers in the region are expecting 85% of normal cherry production, he says.

Harvest time, usually in mid-June, will be about a week late. “Every week that goes by the picture gets a little bit clearer,” Heater says of the weather damage to the crops.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, the Columbia Gorge has seen an explosion of growers converting their acres from wheat to cherry trees because cherries are more lucrative, Heater says.

In 2006, Oregon’s cherry harvest was worth $49 million, according to the state Department of Agriculture (DOA).

But growing cherries is a risky business because their blossoms are more vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Also, if it’s below 55 degrees, or too windy, the bees will not pollinate the buds, Heater says.

“Cherry growers really roll the dice,” says DOA spokesman Bruce Pokarney.

JASON SHUFFLER


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