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Yakima growers worry about cold snap impact on fruit crop

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KNKX File Photo
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Washington State University
Growers have been using wind machines and smudge pots to warm the apple, pear and cherry orchards.

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A hovering arctic jet stream has brought biting cold, snow, rain and hail that is concerning growers across central Washington's Yakima Valley.

Grower Mike Saunders with Apple King—Pro Orchard Management said orchards were laden with snow on Wednesday, an unusual sight, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Freezing temperatures began early this week with another cold snap expected next week. Growers have been using wind machines and smudge pots to warm the apple, pear and cherry orchards.

Washington State Tree Fruit Association spokesperson Tim Kovis said the trees there are in bloom but the cold is keeping the bees from pollinating, which is the biggest concern.

“This is the window that is essential for the bees to be out in the orchards and pollinating those buds for the growing process,” he said.

He said it’s still too early to assess the impact and said growers will know more next week.

Not all orchards in the state are in the same dilemma though they are facing freezing temperatures, Kovis said. Chelan, for example, has had snow, but fruit trees there have yet to bud, he said.

On Monday, a half-inch of snow was measured in Yakima and another half-inch Wednesday.

Previously, the valley hadn’t seen spring snow that late for more than a decade, National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Lawhorn said.

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