(UPDATED COVERAGE, 2:47 p.m., Nov. 8) Freezing temperatures expected in Washington could affect the state’s fresh apple crop, expected to be the biggest ever, but some growers said it was too late for the cold to make a difference.
About 120 million boxes of fresh-market apples are expected to ship from Washington this season, 12% more than last season and up from the previous record of 109 million set in 2010-11, according to a Nov. 7 estimate from the Yakima, Wash.-based Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association and the Wenatchee, Wash.-based Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association.
That number could change, however, due to overnight temperatures that were expected to dip into the 20s beginning the night of Nov. 8 in the Yakima and Wenatchee regions.
Forecasts indicated those low overnight temperatures could last for several days, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Wenatchee-based Washington Growers Clearing House.
Growers start to worry when temperatures of 28 or below are sustained for several hours, Kelly said.
“A number of growers are pushing to get fruit off trees as fast as they can,” Kelly said Nov. 7.
As of Nov. 7, about 10% of the Washington apple crop had yet to be picked, Kelly said. The majority of remaining fruit consists of fujis, Pink Ladies and granny smiths, he said.
Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Rainier Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash., said the freeze would have no effect on Rainier’s apples.
“Everybody’s just about finished, and the fruit that’s left on the trees is Pink Ladies, and they can handle it,” Wolter said Nov. 8.
The cold actually came later than usual this season, Wolter said.
“Mother Nature has been very kind to Washington State,” she said. “When you look at the devastation everywhere else, and how we’ve been able to help fill in for other areas — we’re blessed.”
As of Nov. 8, Washington had shipped 24% more fresh apples than last year at the same time, Wolter said.
The freezing temperatures also won’t affect apples shipped by Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers Inc., which could finish harvesting as early as Nov. 10, said Roger Pepperl, the company’s marketing director.
“We picked the cold pockets first in anticipation of this, though we probably didn’t need to.”
That’s because apples can make it through a couple of cold snaps before growers start to worry, and Washington hasn’t had any thus far, Pepperl said.