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Wind batters Washington cherry crop

By DAN WHEATJune 21, 2019

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Wind is damaging Washington’s cherry crop but how much is not yet known.

“Some say significant, but we won’t know until it runs over the line,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima, referring to when wind-damaged fruit reaches packing lines.

Before winds reaching 35 mph hit the area on June 19, up to 90% of cherries were being packed, which is an excellent rate, Thurlby told the Capital Press.

That percentage will probably drop.

Wind bangs cherries around, bruising them as they hit or rub branches, leaves and other cherries. The riper the fruit, the more susceptible to damage they are. Rainiers bruise more easily than dark cherries.

A lighter crop helps in some areas because clusters aren’t so tight, putting cherries in constant contact with each other.

Charles Lyall, a grower in Mattawa, east and a little north of Yakima, said he may lose 20 to 25% of his Rainier cherries to wind.

“We’ve had a little wind all season, but it really dumped on us yesterday (June 19),” he said. “So on the edges (of orchards), we’re just walking away from it (not picking).”

He said he had a “really good season” on his earlier varieties.

Wind is a factor in harvest across the region, from Pasco to the Okanogan, he said.

Doug Drescher, an Orondo grower north of Wenatchee, said wind will probably affect packouts but the extent is hard to know.

“I might fare better than most because my fruit is still on the green side. It’s a little firmer and doesn’t bruise as easily,” he said.

He has a lot of Rainier and said closer to harvest they can bruise badly.

In East Wenatchee, on June 20, Rick Gifford watched wind bounce the branches of his Rainier trees as he mowed between rows to prepare to open his R&J U-pick the next day.

“I have some wind bruising but it’s a lighter crop. If I had a heavier crop, I’d have more damage,” Gifford said.

Birds are a bigger problem, about as bad as he can remember in the last 20 years, he said.

“I’m the last orchard for a ways around so seem to be an oasis for birds,” he said. “It wouldn’t be so bad if they ate the whole cherry but they just take a peck and move onto the next one.”

Two women from Seattle dropped in and were delighted when he allowed them to pick a day early since they were on their way back to Seattle.

“They’re so beautiful!” one of them, Lan Le, exclaimed of the cherries.

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Information from: Capital Press, http://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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