Photo: Eric Johnson Orchards, April 7, 2011
This is the time of year where we hope that spring weather in the range of 65 degrees is actually upon us … the buds bloom and the bees work. Unfortunately, the 2011 spring hasn’t completely arrived just yet … which is illustrated in the fact that snow is falling in Tieton and Cowiche as I write this post. Last night orchard fans could be heard throughout the growing districts and GS Long bud kill estimates point to the fact that we will see some bud loss in warmer districts that saw temperatures drop to just above 20 degrees. This past week I was able to look at orchards in the Dalles, Hood River, Yakima Valley and Wenatchee and Mattawa. Along the way I saw cherry and soft fruit trees in full bloom (Mattawa and Maryhill along the Columbia River) near bloom (Yakima Valley, Rock Island Wenatchee, Quincy, and the Dalles) and in full dormancy (Upper Wenatchee). Grower Kyle Mathison reported that his upper Stemilt Hill orchards experienced significant snow on Monday night.
The industry finds itself in the midst of frost season and our overall degree days indicate that we are behind in all districts and are heading for another late start of cherry harvest this year. With the California industry running at least a week later than normal this may not be such a bad thing … as those in the know down south are expecting a full crop that could range from 8 to 11 million boxes with plenty of Stockton/Lodi cherries during the first two weeks of June.
As for the Northwest crop, it will be one of those years where we really won’t know what we have until it goes into a box. The extreme cold we experienced in November and again in early March have had many growers thinking that the crop might be down. However, I have had a good many growers of late mention that they think they are going to have more cherries than they would have thought in November. Whether the crop comes in at 14, 16 or 18 million boxes we are going to have some challenges along the way this year … and we are going to need as many late June, July and August promotions as we can get and all the shelf space those promotions create.
In this business there is always hope … and the warm weather we are all hoping for may show up next week. If not … there is always the month of May.