Washington fruit crop damage assessments to be released in August
July 25, 2006
by Lora Abcarian
KENNEWICK, WA -- Dan Kelly, assistant director of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee, WA, said July 17 that he expects realistic numbers about summer hail damage to the state's crop of apples, pears and cherries will become available the week of Aug. 7.
Mr. Kelly said that preliminary numbers in mid-July were "guestimates," and he indicated that the numbers were most likely on the high side. Estimates were that approximately 1 million boxes of pears will be lost in 2006, and apples are likely to be down somewhere between 10 million to 20 million boxes.
"No one has really come out with a number [for cherries]," he told The Produce News. "The cherry deal should still be close to a record crop."
Mother Nature hit the area hard in June and again in early July 5 with two major hailstorms and a series of smaller weather events in eastern Washington. Apple trees suffered the most damage, with several growers in the Wallula area and Chelan County sustaining significant crop losses. Mr. Kelly said that hailstorms usually do not appear until late July or early August, and orchards in these two locations were in the storms' epicenters.
Pear losses were estimated at 6 percent of the crop. B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission, said earlier in the season that cherries sustained a 1 percent loss, a minimal impact to this year's crop.
Statewide, harvests for all three commodities were looking good in mid-July.
"At the end of the day, [the numbers] add up," Mr. Kelly stated. "We should have good apple and pear crops. The first half of the shipping season [for cherries] outpaced last year by a half-million boxes."
San Joaquin grape harvest not late as expected, thanks to recent hot weather
July 25, 2006
by Rand Green
Following weeks of cold, wet spring weather, it appeared at one point that the table grape harvest in California's San Joaquin Valley would start at least two weeks later than normal, and some growers had predicted start dates as much as three weeks late.
But warm and sometimes extremely hot weather over the past two months has changed all that, as timing has generally returned to within three or four days of normal, and reliable supplies of fresh grapes in promotable volume are now available.
As recently as mid-June, several California grape growers told The Produce News that they expected to start harvesting grapes in the San Joaquin Valley a week to 10 days later than normal. But some of them who were not expecting to begin harvesting their earliest varieties until the middle of July actually got going right around July 3 or 4.
Anthony Vineyards in Bakersfield, CA, started harvesting Flames in the Arvin district on July 3. "It was kind of surprising," said Anthony's John Harley. "We thought it was going to be late and we probably misjudged that by about four or five days. As we got closer to harvest, it actually got caught up, at least for us."
Ballantine Produce Co. in Reedley, CA, started with Flames in Arvin on July 5, just three days later than last year. Coming into spring, "we were looking at things as much as three weeks late," and as recently as early June, it still looked to be a week late, said Ballantine's Mike Celani.
"Overall, we are probably looking at the rest of the season being, at most, only a few days off from the previous year," he said.
It may be "just the extremely warm weather" that brought the crop on earlier than anticipated, "but we were looking at not starting Arvin 'till sometime around the 15th of July," said Mike Binn of Columbine vineyards in Delano, CA. "It came in a good week earlier than we expected.
With the start of the San Joaquin Valley deal, growers say they now expect to have continuous supplies of grapes in promotable volume throughout the remainder of the season. That should be a welcome prospect to buyers who faced significant shortages and exceptionally high prices during the Mexican and Coachella, CA, grape deals in May and June.
Growers do say that the San Joaquin Valley crop will be lighter this year than last, but "we don't need another 95 million-box crop," noted Chuck Olsen of the Chuck Olsen Co. in Visalia, CA.
Many growers have said that their Thompson crop will be lighter this year, and the Autumn Royal black seedless variety in particular appears to be very light for many growers.
Exceptional quality, good color and good berry size are being seen on the early fruit, although there was some concern that if the extremely hot weather persists, some problems could develop later in the season.
"We have never had nicer looking Perlettes than we have down" in Arvin, Columbine's Mike Binn said on July 11.
"I think this year we are off 20 percent on the crop easy," said Nick Dulcich of Jakov Dulcich & Sons in Delano. But "what's out there, the quality looks good."
The heat is also affecting stone fruit in the San Joaquin Valley. According to a July 17 memo from the California Tree Fruit Agreement, "Packouts have dropped temporarily for all three commodities [peaches, plums and nectarines], as they are between major varieties. After a scorching weekend July 15 and 16 that has slowed harvest activity, packouts will increase during the middle to end of this week with harvest beginning for the next set of major varieties."
As of July 19, the 10-day forecast for the Fresno, CA, area called for daily highs continuing in the 104- to 110-degree range. Robert Rocha of P-R Farms in Fresno expressed concern that with continued hot weather, stone fruit "might see some delayed maturity," which could result in production gaps later in the season.
In Southern California, the heat was affecting on the avocado crop. "The current heat wave across the industry is expected to continue this week," stated an "urgent communiqu?" to growers from the California Avocado Commission dated July 17. "We know this presents challenges for many growers as fruit drop accelerates, harvesting continues at record levels and the industry's infrastructure is stretched." The communiqu? contained harvest and post-harvest guidelines for maintaining temperatures "during very warm weather."