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Freeze hits Colorado fruit

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | April 01, 2009
While ski resorts and some farmers in Colorado rejoiced at late March snow and the moisture it brought, a number of fruit growers on the state's Western Slope were hit hard by back-to-back storms.

A March 27 freeze was particularly damaging to the Palisade, CO, region just east of Grand Junction, and another freeze hit just days later.

Donovan Talbott, partner in C&R Farms in Palisade, said that his apricot crop was completely wiped out, along with his cherries and nectarines.

"And I had quite a bit of pear damage," he said.

Those losses are not without consequence, but the area's biggest crop is peaches.

"Some peach varieties had 100 percent kill, and some had 30 percent kill," Mr. Talbott added. "I still have some early varieties, though."

Peach harvest in the Palisade area normally begins July 12, with shipments running through mid-September.

The Grand Junction Sentinel reported that peach losses could total $7 million for the region, and Mr. Talbott said that he is expecting his total production to be off by 60 percent.

South of Palisade in the Delta-Hotchkiss-Paonia area of the state, grower Richard Kinser said that his operation, Rogers Mesa Fruit Co., had experienced some losses, although not as serious as growers in Palisade.

"The majority of our apricots are seriously damaged, and there has been some damage to peaches, but we still have lots of fruit," Mr. Kinser said March 30. Pears, apples and cherries came through the freeze well. "The apricots were thinned out, but we're still in the game," Mr. Kinser said.