CALDWELL, Idaho — Unusually hot summer temperatures this year didn’t hurt Idaho’s peach crop but the heat and untimely rainstorms decimated the state’s sweet cherry crop.
“The heat didn’t affect our peaches at all … but our cherry crop was pretty much annihilated,” said Carrie Seymour, owner of Northbound Farms near Caldwell, a U-pick operation with 100 cherry trees. “The cherry crop was pretty dismal this year for everybody.”
Idaho’s cherry crop is pretty much harvested by the end of June but harvest of the state’s peach crop can last until late September.
The last major summer rainstorm in the area hit right before harvest when cherries were ripening and it caused about 80 percent of the cherry crop at Williamson Orchards in Caldwell to split.
“It was kind of a disaster,” orchard owner Michael Williamson said of his cherry crop. “It’s almost a total loss.”
The storm brought three days of heavy rain, Seymour said. “We had three straight days of driving rain. We hadn’t had rain and needed it desperately but it came at the most inopportune time.”
She said poor pollination because of adverse weather actually had a bigger impact on her orchard’s cherry crop.
“When we got the bees, it got cold and they didn’t work very well,” she said. “Pollination became our primary problem.”
Idaho’s Treasure Valley area, where the bulk of the state’s fruit crops are grown, suffered through one of its hottest summers on record and the early season heat had a major impact on cherries, said Dan Symms of Symms Fruit Ranch in Caldwell.
“The rains came at a very inopportune time (but) the heat was more damaging to cherries than anything,” he said. “It was a tough year for cherries … because of the rain and heat.”
Total cherry production in Idaho varies wildly from year to year and has fluctuated from 6,000 tons in 2009 to 1,900 tons in 2010 and 4,000 tons in 2012. The reason for that variation is that cherries bloom early and are at the mercy of Idaho’s sometimes cold early spring weather.
The value of Idaho’s cherry crop varies annually from $3 million to close to $6 million.
Orchardists said Idaho’s $6 million peach crop was not adversely affected by weather and temperatures this year.
The heat may have impacted peach sizes in Idaho but it allowed them “to stay nice and juicy all the way through the season,” Williamson said. “We didn’t get a lot of the biggest … sizes but we had good quality.”
Idaho’s annual peach production is pretty steady at about 8,000 tons a year.