(July 12) From the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania to the valleys of the Hudson River, fruit production has been devastated in certain Northeast corridors, shippers report.

Thanks to a mostly warm winter with unpredictable cold bursts and hail storms throughout the spring, some growers across Pennsylvania and eastern New York have seen their yields drastically reduced.

Statewide, however, the Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics Service reported in early July that 79% of the state’s peach crop and 69% of the apple crop were in good or excellent condition. The service rated 5% or less of each crop as very poor.

But while those apple and peach numbers may seem promising — the vast majority of the Pennsylvania apple and peach crop is grown in the southern county of Adams, which only suffered slight damage — areas that were hit were hit hard.

TOUGH TIMES IN NORTHEAST COUNTY

Ed Pruss, Pennsylvania State University extension agent for Wayne County, said fruit in that northeastern county has been “pretty well wiped out.”

In Orefield, Pa., north of Allentown, David Jaindl, of Schantz Orchards, said the fruit his firm harvests was affected in varying degrees.

“We’ve had some impact,” Jaindl said. “Sweet cherries were hit harder than anything else.” He also said pears were affected.

Clarence Wentzler, part-owner of Wentzler Fruit Farms Inc., Muncy, Pa., said frost as late as May 25, coupled with heavy spring rainfall, also affected the crop size of his firm’s early stone fruit, including cherries, apricots, plums and peaches.

At the base of the Appalachian plateau on the southern edge of the mountain range, Muncy’s weather pattern typically is similar to that of New York’s Hudson Valley, which “suffered heavily,” Wentzler said.

“The weather this spring was very difficult,” he said. “On a commercial scale, it has definitely cut down volume, but typically there is enough fruit out there, so I am not sure if there is going to be a big impact on the market.

“But it will have an impact on the grower.”

One Columbia County, N.Y., shipper, who asked not to be identified, said that as little as 20% to 30% and as much as 50% to 60% of the remaining stone fruit crops in the Hudson Valley could be considered normal.

“It’s a very poor crop,” the source said.
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HOT, THEN COLD>/b>

Peter Gregg, spokesman for the New York Apple Association Inc., Fishers, blamed Hudson Valley temperatures that reached well into the 90s in April and then dove into the lower 20s on May 19-20 as the primary culprits for the volume declines. Since then, hail pummeled other orchards, leaving some scarred and others devastated, he said.

“The crop got off to an early start, and that made it vulnerable to the freeze and frost in late May,” he said. “(The damage) has been fairly sporadic, but some (trees) are hurting pretty bad.”

Still, New York’s other primary apple-growing regions, the western district near Lake Ontario and the northeastern district near Lake Champlain, should help the state come close to making up the difference, Gregg said.

“Statewide, there will be significant production,” he said. “We are looking at a good crop coming out of two of our big growing regions.”

Western New York accounts for 40% of the state’s apple production, Gregg said.