Extreme heat takes out portion of Northwest cherry crop

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — An extreme heat wave damaged cherries grown in the Yakima Valley and the Northwest in late June and early July. The high temperature reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 Celsius) in Yakima on June 29, an all-time record.

The heat caused various issues, such as sunburn and stunted growth that made the cherries unsuitable for the fresh cherry market, The Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Many cherries were left on trees while others were picked but processed, which provides a lower return to growers.

Northwest Cherry Growers is still assessing the damage, but President B.J. Thurlby estimates about 20% of the overall crop was lost. Much of the loss happened in the Yakima Valley, where cherries were about to be picked.

The Northwest cherry growing region includes five states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana.

In May, the Yakima-based organization estimated a crop of 23.8 million 20-pound boxes in the five-state growing region. Thurlby said the yield this season is now likely in the 18 million to 19 million box range, which would be similar to the 2020 crop. Last year’s crop was affected by frost and wind before harvest.

A few cherry varieties received a disproportionate amount of damage: Bing and Skeena, two red-fleshed cherry varieties, and the popular Rainier. Most of the damage was to Skeena, which is generally picked after Bing.

Other varieties, such as Lapin and Sweetheart, picked later in the cherry season, had far less damage.

Harvest will conclude in the Upper Yakima Valley in the next week. Cherry harvest in other parts of Washington and the Northwest will wrap up in the next few weeks.

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