Winds buffet Kern County cherries

05/08/2013 06:17:00 PM
Mike Hornick

A wind and dust storm that hit the Bakersfield, Calif., region May 5 took a bite out of Kern County’s stone fruit and nut crops.

High winds spread through parts of the state in the first week of the month.

“We had a lot of fruit drop in cherries, peaches and plums, and a lot of almond trees were uprooted and blown over,” said Glenn Fankhauser, deputy director for the Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards. “Citrus was just broken limbs. There was not much damage in citrus or grapes.”

Estimates are ongoing, but the crop loss in one variety of cherries — rainiers — was 40% to 50%, Fankhauser said. In addition to the fruit drop all cherries suffered, the rainiers were hard hit by cosmetic issues, enough to make a chunk of the surviving crop unmarketable.

“That’s a blush or cream-colored variety,” he said. “Fruit that didn’t fall off the tree as a result of the wind may have been scarred. The blemishes won’t be covered up as a dark variety might.”

Rainiers, tulares and brooks each account for about a third of Kern County’s $227 million cherry crop. The winds were soon followed by rains, raising concerns that cherries might start splitting.

Peaches and plums were each valued at about $11.5 million in 2011, but substantially higher in other years.

The scope of the almond damage was unclear. One grower reported a loss of 1,500 trees to the county, but not every orchard was hit by the storm.

“There’s been some wind damage, but the consensus is a lot of those almonds would have fallen anyway because of a normal drop,” said Bob Curtis, associate director of agricultural affairs for the Modesto-based Almond Board of California.

“Areas of the county had no problem with the wind,” Fankhauser said. “It was localized.”



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