Cold Spring Means Lighter Cherry And Peach Crop

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The same factors that produced a later and lighter cherry crop are affecting many Yakima Valley peach growers as well.

Cold spring weather, a late April frost and their impact on pollination has delayed the peach harvesting season, usually at its peak by now, local growers and state agriculture officials say, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

“Volume is down because of the cold conditions we saw this spring,” said James Michael, vice president of marketing-North America for the Washington State Fruit Commission. “Besides the severe cold and frost, we had a long, extended cool period that pushed everything back, including the peaches.”

While there isn’t a formal Washington peach crop estimate, many of the state’s top peach areas were among the coldest points during the April freeze, Michael said. The consensus among growers is that there is about half of a crop this season, he said.

“We are getting into the peak of peaches now, and will be transitioning through varieties until late September this year,” Michael said. “Traditionally, peach harvest begins in early July and lasts through mid-September, but the cool spring pushed most crops back by at least two weeks.”

Local growers agree with those harvest predictions.

J.L. Thompson of Thompson’s Farm in Naches said while later-blooming fruit trees such as pears and apples should produce “decent” crops this year, early- and mid-summer fruits weren’t so fortunate.

“It’s kind of a light crop for peaches,” Thompson said. “Frost damage affected peaches, cherries, apricots, plums. We had that late frost right around Easter, and that affected pollination.

“We’re picking some Red Havens right now, but the crop is pretty minimal. Elbertas are not as bad … we have a decent number of donut (peaches),” he added. “A lot of years we do U-pick for peaches, but we’ll have to wait and see this year.”