Growers say minor frost damage could not derail season

By SEAN ELLIS

Capital Press

Though they had to push the envelope in some cases, Idaho farmers who harvested later than normal because of a prolonged spring got their crops in without any significant damage before colder weather set in.

There have been some reports of minor frost damage and a stretch of heavy rain in October made things challenging, but moderate fall temperatures enabled most farmers to complete their harvest without too much trouble.

Most of the state's sugar beet harvest was pushed back about a week because of heavy rain the second week of October, but "after that, we had perfect weather the rest of the season," Rupert farmer Duane Grant said Nov. 7.

Grant, chairman of the Snake River Sugar Co-op, said harvest wrapped up about five days later than growers wanted. There were some minor problems with frost, "but nothing significant that will have a meaningful impact on our processing ability."

Yields were stronger than projected while sugar content was off a little, he added.

"The crop looks good and it's a little better than we had projected," Grant said.

Potato growers also rebounded after that adverse week of weather in mid-October, said Britt Raybould, communications consultant for United Potato Growers of Idaho.

"Once we got past that one week of rain (in October), it dried out, it was warm during the day and not too cold at night," she said. "When all was said and done, most everyone ended up not having too many problems."

About a third of the state's onion crop was still in the field the second week of October and onion farmers were particularly concerned there would not be enough time for their crop to dry before it's moved to sheds for storage.

The weather in southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon, an area that produces about 25 percent of the nation's fresh bulb onions, held out just long enough, industry officials said.

"They all got put away OK," despite some minor frost problems, said Clinton Wissel, president of the Idaho Onion Growers Association. "The weather cooperated."

The state's apple growers also faced more drama than they would have liked. Harvest typically wraps up in late October but this year it was pushed into the second week of November.

There were a few frost days and rain complicated things. "But we've certainly seen much worse in the month of November in Idaho," said Kelley Henggeler, general manager of Henggeler Packing Co. in Fruitland.

Growers knew the recent below-average temperatures were coming, picked through the previous weekend and were able to get their crop finished in time, he said.

Quality and yields are good, Henggeler added. "We had a very nice fall. We're feeling good about things."

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