Temperatures have plunged well below freezing point for the second time in less than a month in the US Pacific Northwest, causing further damage to the region's cherry crop.
The extent of the damage is still being assessed, but initial expectations range from 20-30 per cent. The earliest-bearing regions such as the lower Yakima Valley and the Colombia River region were the most vulnerable to damage as fruit was already on the trees in these areas. In the Wenatchee and Chelan areas, damage may be minimal as some orchards had yet to go into bloom.
One major grower told Fruitnet that the beginning of the Northwest cherry harvest will probably be delayed and that early volumes will be lighter than usual. Pollinisation may also be a problem as bee activity has been erratic due to what some sources are calling the coolest spring in the Pacific Northwest in 30 years.
However, with more orchards of late maturing varieties coming into production this year, most industry experts believe the 2008 season will be similar in volume to last year's 14.7m-carton (9.1kg) crop.
Meanwhile, the California cherry season is officially under way, with the first fumigation of fruit for the Japanese market occurring on 24 April. The San Joaquin crop is reported to be relatively heavy, while the northern areas with the Bing variety appear to be lighter than 2007. According to the California Cherry Advisory Board, packed volume will probably not reach the record haul of 7.5m cartons (8.2kg) seen last year. But fruit quality is expected to be strong, with good sizing in the northern areas. Volumes are expected to peak in early June.
The frosts are also set to have some impact on the Washington apple and Northwest pear crops for 2008/09. Kirk Mayer of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association said apple growers had expected a record 105-110m-carton crop, but the volume is now likely to be closer to last year’s 98m cartons.