Cherry industry crosses fingers on spring weather

05/08/2014 02:45:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

RICHGROVE, Calif. — A relatively dry bloom period followed by warm weather is raising hopes of California’s cherry grower-shippers for a good crop this season.

But they’re also holding their breath because they know how fickle spring weather can be between spring bloom and harvest.

Chill hours, which historically have put the tree into a deep winter slumber, also have been a concern this spring.

Although the trees probably received enough cold weather altogether, Chance Kirk, director of retail and foodservice sales for Richgrove-based Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons Inc., said the timing of the chilling periods may affect them. The state saw unusually cold weather in early December followed by unusually warm weather for much of the remaining winter.

Briana Shales, communications manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC, attributed this winter’s unusual weather pattern as well as the past two dry winters for the somewhat sporadic bloom.

“There’s a good side,” she said. “Unlike last year, where everything was really compacted and most of the cherries came off in the same month, this will spread it out, which will be good for the market.”

Stemilt owns Chinchiolo Stemilt California LLC, Stockton.

The northern districts were still in bloom in late March, and Shales said it was too early to tell what size crop would result. However, with the orchards in the south San Joaquin Valley further ahead, she said the company expects a normal-sized crop, barring unforeseen weather.

“It’s a little early on the quality and size still, mostly because of the weather, and it’s very dependent on what will happen there,” Shales said.

Overall, she said Stemilt expects to pack more cherries this season because of addedacreage and younger orchards coming into production.

In mid-March, Kirk said he’d know better about the crop set in early April, when trees naturally drop a small portion of their fruit.

He said so far the crop looked clean, and volume and quality are expects to be good, but that can quickly change.

“One afternoon a week before harvest last year, a strong wind came through and we lost 100% of our rainiers in two hours,” Kirk said. “If there’s perfect weather going through, and it stays like this, I think we’re going to have a decent crop.”



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