During the heat spell of the past week, that included a couple days of over 100-degree temperatures, locally grown fruits and vegetables had mixed reactions.
Some were sunburned, some shriveled up and some softened up, but others loved the heat. For those, the hot days will hasten the ripening process.
Blueberries and cherries seemed to be the most negatively impacted, suffering from 113 degrees last Sunday, an all-time record high temperature for the Roseburg area. The fact the thermometer topped out at 100 degrees on Saturday and 104 on Monday extended the stressful period.
“No question, when the thermometer hits 100 degrees, if fruit is exposed very much in the trees, that fruit is pretty vulnerable to sunburn,” said Steve Renquist, the horticulture specialist at the Oregon State University Extension Service office in Roseburg. “Extreme heat for berry and cherry crops is troublesome. In June, even in early July, high 90s and low 100s is very unusual for us.”
Both the blueberries and cherries were in the middle of their harvest seasons when the intense heat hit. There was added concern because early forecasts indicated another couple days of high 90s to 100 degree weather this weekend, but more recent forecasts have eased temperatures down to the low 90s over the next week.
“The cherries have definitely been hit hard,” said Evan Kruse, co-owner of Kruse Farms in Garden Valley west of Roseburg. “The trees have a hard time keeping up with the transport of water to the fruit so the cherries will soften or begin to dry up. The heat will significantly shorten the harvest window.”
While the dark cherry varieties suffered the most, Kruse checked out the farm’s rainier cherry trees last Tuesday and noted there was still good fruit available with select picking. Renquist said the lighter colored cherries will handle the stress better than the darker varieties.
Mark Brosi, the owner of Brosi’s Sugartree Farms of Winston, said the recent heat will result in more cherries falling to the ground sooner.
“It’s all bad news for the cherries,” he said.
Brosi said the later ripening varieties of cherries will have good color, but will be soft and won’t hold up as long, whether on the tree or in the refrigerator.
Both the Brosi and Kruse farms are still offering u-pick for cherries.
At Norris Blueberry Farms in the Umpqua area, co-owner Paul Norris said a couple varieties of the berries were sunburned and dried up.
“That heat impacted us, but to what extent we’re not sure yet,” he said. “Some of the fruit is not sizing as well as it should.”
Norris said because of those high heat days, pickers could only work during the cooler morning hours so less berries were picked on those days and the farm got behind on filling some orders. It was able to gradually catch up thanks to the recent cooler days with a cloud cover until mid day.
The Norris farm doesn’t offer u-pick, but has begun its local sales at its sorting and packing facility. Blueberries are kept in 32 to 34 degree coolers before being sold locally or shipped out in refrigerated semi trailers.
“We have lost some crop, but I think we’ll get through it as we have in the past,” Norris said.
Many other crops didn’t suffer from the extreme heat. Orchard fruits such as peaches and nectarines and ground crops such as melons and summer squash are still maturing. The farmers anticipate the only impact of the heat on those will be a quicker ripening process.
Brosi and Kruse said additional irrigating of those types of crops also eased any stress on the maturing fruits and vegetables.
Peppers and tomatoes were reported to like the heat with their coloring coming on earlier.
Although irrigated corn fields held up well, Kruse expects that harvest start will be a few days later as the kernels begin to fill out again after being slowed by the heat.
“A lot of vegetables like the heat if you continue to give them plenty of water,” Renquist said.
Kruse said, “One silver lining to the intense heat” was that it negatively impacted the spotted wing drosophila, a pest that likes to feed on ripening fruit. It’s not very active at temperatures above 90.
The farmers are happy to see less 100 degree days, but understand it is only early July so there may be a few more in upcoming weeks.
“Obviously, there’s always going to be something in farming,” Brosi said. “You just never know what it’ll be, but they’re out of our control. Challenges are Farming 101. We do the best we can with what Mother Nature gives us.”