A sudden drop in temperatures in Washington won’t likely have a big effect on this season’s apple crop, which is expected to set a volume record, but it could damage some fruit trees in the state.
Temperatures beginning Nov. 11 dipped into the teens, said Jon Devaney, president of the Yakima, Wash.-based Washington State Tree Fruit Association.
“Temperatures really dropped on Tuesday and Wednesday, depending on which production area you were in,” he said Nov. 14.
It’s not unusual to have freezing weather in November in Washington, Devaney said. What is unusual is to have such cold weather preceded by such unseasonably warm weather.
“The temperature dropped so quickly. Up until it dropped, we had good picking weather.”
Because of that good weather up until Nov. 11, most of the apple crop got picked, said Katharine Grove, marketing specialist for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International.
“We luckily were able to get pretty much everything in the barn before the cold hit,” Grove said.
Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers, agreed.
“There’s some fruit that won’t get harvested, but that happens every year. We made to the 12th this year, which is later than most years. Once you get past Halloween, anything’s a blessing.”
Even with the freeze, Washington will still have a bumper crop, said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Yakima-based Domex Superfresh Growers.
“The crop is so big, the apples that got frozen, we’re just not going to pick. We still expect a record crop.”
Stemilt lost some fujis and cripps pink to the freeze, Pepperl said. Devaney said some braeburns were also likely lost.
Devaney said that volume estimates will likely come down, however, because of the cold snap, but it was hard to say by how much. About 140 million fresh cartons are expected this season, according to pre-freeze estimates, about 10 million cartons more than the previous record crop.
Nager said the crop could actually be closer to 150 million cartons.
The bigger concern, Grove said, was damage to cherry, peach and other trees. Apple trees, which are hardier, have a better chance of surviving unscathed.
It wasn’t the temperatures themselves that was the main cause of concern, she said, but the sudden drop.
“It was mild for so long, then it turned very cold.”
Pepperl was less concerned about tree damage.
“I think we’re OK. There’s always that danger, because there’s no snow to protect the roots, but I don’t think it was that big of a swing. And it warmed up pretty fast. It’s still cold, but it’s more moderate now.”
“It didn’t get cold enough to harm the trees. Typically, high teens and low 20s are good for trees. As long as it’s not in the single digits or low teens.”