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Cherries, other crops slowed by cold spring

It’s too early to know for sure how Idaho’s cherry crop fared financially this season, but it’s clear many southwestern cherries took a big hit from frost and a cold spring.

Cherry growers saw their yields drop to about one-tenth of the last decade’s average because of poor pollination and frost damage during bloom, said Tony McCammon, a University of Idaho horticulture educator in Washington County.

In the areas McCammon covers, unusually cold temperatures kept the bees at home, limiting the rate of pollination, McCammon said. A late-season May frost that came after the blooms had opened also did some damage.

“We don’t plan for frost in late May,” McCammon said.

Southwest Idaho has about 1 million cherry trees, more than half of them in the Canyon County and Marsing area. Only 10,000 cherry trees are in Gem and Payette Counties. In June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that Idaho’s overall cherry yield this year would be around 3,800 tons, which is average.

But Dan Symms, who grows cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, prunes, and nine varieties of apples on his farm in the Caldwell area, said he expects fruit yields to be lower than average in the Sunnyslope area, where most of the region’s cherries are grown. Like McCammon, Symms said the cold weather last spring discouraged pollination, and a badly timed frost slowed things down as well. Symms has about 700 acres of cherries.

The same thing happened at other fruit operations all around the West, Symms said.

“What we had was this prolonged cool spring, and so it has just made the fruit a lot later than it normally would be,” he said. “Our crops are two weeks behind the normal timing.”

Volume is expected to be down as well.

“We estimated that we would have more cherries than we have, but it turned out to be a below average crop,” Symms said. The size and quality of the fruit was excellent, however, he noted.

“On the bright side, we had plenty of water,” he added.

About Anne Wallace Allen

Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.