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Fruit harvests appear to be rebounding after two tough years

Karla Salp / Washington State Department of Agriculture

The Washington State Tree fruit Association said this year's apple crop is rebounding after two less than stellar years: Association president Jon DeVaney, said the weather this year has been much more cooperative

“In 2021 we had the heat dome event that affected the overall size and quality, and then in 2022 we had a real cool wet spring, including snow on trees already in bloom and that really affected pollination,” he said. His organization predicts this year’s crop will produce about 134 million standard 40-pound boxes of fruit, compared to just 104 million last year.

Last year’s cold, wet spring, and the prior year’s heat dome heavily impacted harvests. DeVaney said in the wake of those events, growers are looking for ways to make their orchards more resilient.

“Putting in shade cloth for example so those high heat days don't do as much damage to the surface of fruit,” he said, “how do you do over cooling with sprinklers and still conserve water, and how do you manage harvest so you have crews working overnight or in the early parts of the morning to avoid the hottest parts of the day.”

He said protecting fruit from heat is one of a number of ways fruit growers are looking to improve resiliency, and grow more sustainably. He said Washington leads also the nation in organic fruit harvests.

DaVaney said harvest of some early varieties is starting now, and will continue until November for the later types. He said the one weather issue they hope to avoid is early hard frost, before harvest is over.