A cold snap that dropped temperatures below freezing throughout much of the Pacific Northwest last weekend has fruit and vegetable growers worried. But they say it may be too early to determine how much damage the colder weather caused.
In Washington state, the mercury dropped to as low as 18 degrees in some of the pome fruit producing areas of the Wenatchee and Yakima Valleys, according to local media reports.
Early reports from growers show some damage to developing pear buds and the cherry crop. But they say they'll have a better idea of damage by the end of the week. Initial damage to the apple crop is scattered from 15 percent to a few growers writing off entire blocks.
Another concern is the lack of bee activity. Bees typically won't fly when temperatures are below the mid-50-degree range. Even if the flowers did survive the freeze, growers remained concern about whether the bees will pollinate them.
Growers in both of the valleys worked throughout the nights running wind machines irrigation systems and heaters to try to keep orchard temperatures higher. Even if they were successful, they face fuel bills that could run five times as much as normal.
Growers in California experienced cold temperatures, but not to the magnitude of their counterparts to the north.
Grape growers report scattered damage in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties, though the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association had heard no damage reports as of Monday. Central Coast vineyards also withstood cold weather. Observers say it will take a few days to learn the extent of the damage.
In Central Valley orchards, farmers will check this week to make sure their fruit crops came through the weekend without trouble, according to reports from the California Farm Bureau Federation. Some regions saw freezing temperatures.
But apricot farmers at least say they saw no damage to their crops. The Apricot Producers of California group says temperatures on the west side of the valley stayed a little warmer and protected the fruit. Farmers will watch other fruit trees during the next few days to see if they show any impact from the cold snap.
Consumers will see more "frost-kissed" artichokes at retail stores in the coming days. Growers say freezing temperatures in the Castroville region have slowed the artichoke harvest.
Cold weather also turns outer leaves on the artichokes a light brown. The California Artichoke Advisory Board says many artichoke fans believe the frost-kissed ones promise enhanced flavor. The weather this spring has provided more frost-kissed artichokes than usual.
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