As cherries begin to ripen in Washington the big question is the amount of preharvest fruit drop from winter freeze damage, poor pollination and other factors.
Checks with a few growers show mixed results so far.
* Charles Lyall, Mattawa, said he had "real heavy drop" in Chelan, an early variety, and probably lost 5 to 10 percent. Cool weather is keeping cherries from sizing and there's wind damage and splits, he said.
* Andy Handley, East Wenatchee, said his drop is about normal but that he doubts the crop will reach the 17.2 million boxes predicted by Northwest Cherry Growers.
* Andy Gale, general manager of Stemilt AgServices, said there's good fruit set on Stemilt Hill, East Wenatchee and Quincy. He said he sees no big surprises in drop so far and that the 17.2 million box forecast is a good number.
* Howard Schell, horticultural manager of Chelan Fruit Cooperative, said some growers have good crops and some don't. He said he's not sure the crop is as large as forecast and that drop is not excessive so far.
* Denny Hayden, Pasco, said there are reports of heavy drop but that crop load looks moderate in the Tri-Cities and into Oregon. He said he probably will start picking Chelan about June 18 and that his greatest fear is rain.
-- Dan Wheat