Water scarce, but fruit quality good

07/27/2012 09:36:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Water hasn’t been plentiful this season, but Colorado fruit shippers say there’s been enough to produce high-quality crops.

Organic grower-shipper Rogers Mesa Fruit Co., Hotchkiss, Colo., began its cherry and apricot harvests about three weeks early this season, said Richard Kinser, manager.

Peaches began shipping the week of July 16, Kinser said, also ahead of schedule.

Colorado’s drought, while devastating to some of the state’s forests and the people who live near them, has not been unkind this summer to Rogers Mesa’s growers’ fruit crops, Kinser said.

“We’ve had excellent cherry and apricot crops, and the peaches look very good,” he said. “The weather has been great for fruit quality. We’ve had some sunburn issues, but nothing that can’t be handled.”

Because of the early start to the cherry and apricot deals, volumes were winding down two or three weeks earlier than usual, Kinser said.

Freezes hurt cherries

An Easter freeze knocked out about 80% of the cherry crop for United Marketing Exchange, Delta, Colo., said Mike Gibson, sales manager.

United Marketing began shipping cherries June 13, 10 days to two weeks earlier than normal, Gibson said. By June 29, they were done.

Peaches, however, are another story, with only about 25% loss expected, and volumes should be up from 2011, Gibson said.

“So far, everything looks good,” he said. “There was a little frost early, but all in all, we’re anticipating a nice crop of peaches. It should keep us busy through August.”

Growing weather this summer has been excellent for peaches, Gibson said.

“There’s been no hail, and it’s been hot and dry,” he said. “Peaches like it dry as long as you can keep them moist.”

Finding enough irrigation water has been a scramble for many Colorado growers, but as of mid-July most seemed to be finding it, Gibson said.

“Irrigation water has been tight, but I haven’t heard of where they can’t keep them wet.”

Yields are up on Rogers Mesa’s fruit crops this summer after a period of several years when frosts took a significant chunk out of volumes, Kinser said.

The frosts were an issue this summer, too, Kinser said, but growers were ready for them.

“A lot of growers have invested in wind machines and other frost protection,” he said, citing sprinklers as another method.

Pears were the hardest hit by frost this year, he said.

“They were in blossom and took the smack,” she said.

Rogers Mesa’s cherry acreage is up this year as new varieties enter their first season of production.

Peaches, apples look good

The company’s apricot acreage is down slightly, but big sizing thus far this season is making up for it, Kinser said.

That trend that should continue later in the season, he said.

“It looks to be similar with peaches. There are a lot of big peaches out there.”

Rogers Mesa’s peach acreage should be similar this year to recent totals, Kinser said. Over the next several years, the company should see a big boost in volumes as new plantings come on.

Apples also could see a jump in production in coming years, he said.

“I don’t know if it’s significant, but there are some new cultivars, varieties. They seem to be on an upward trend.”

Rogers Mesa expects to add pipfruit to its summer stone fruit crops in about the third week of August, when Colorado pears should start shipping, Kinser said. Apples likely will follow around Sept. 1.

Of the two, apples should be the star of the late summer season, Kinser said.



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