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Pre-Season Cherry Crop Update

We still can't predict bloom, but we can study it from one end to the other once it arrives.  And that's just what we're doing.  The image above is of Chelans blooming along the river near Pasco, Washington, exactly one week ago Tuesday.  Since then, bloom has spread quickly and fully across the Northwest to all but the coldest corners.  And even there, the weather has been ideal.  That means it's been warm and relatively calm enough for pollinator activity while remaining cool and humid enough to prolong pollen viability. 

(Editorial images from bloom will be coming later this week.  If you'd like access to some in order to promote the coming crop to your customer base, please contact your NW Cherry Growers representative.)
Bings were in full bloom throughout the Yakima Valley over the weekend.  The images above and below are both near Wapato, Washington, and show trees entering the weekend with full bloom (above) and exiting (below).  When it can take several hours after the bee's work is finished before a cherry can be considered pollinated, ideal bloom weather prolonging the viability is oh-so important.  Thankfully Mother Nature has been cooperating so far.
While the Bings near Wapato in the photos above were in full bloom on Friday, the photo below was taken of some in an orchard near Moxee - only 12 miles away - but planted at a much higher elevation.  This topographical spread helps ensure promotable availability throughout the season.
Crop Timing - It's too early to establish an accurate estimated start date for the industry quite yet.  With the start of bloom comes a number of initial projections, and while they may be orchard-accurate, they do not necessarily reflect the promotable volume of the crop as a whole.  The data is incoming from our bloom sites as we type this, and we will get that information back out to our retail partners in projection form as soon as possible. 

In the meantime, there's good news.  While many growers are still in the 2-weeks late range, several sites have caught up considerably on Growing Degree Day units over the past week.  So while the Northwest and California are once again both expecting late starts, the early fresh crop from the Northwest is seeing a nice bloom on fruit in areas that would deliver with plenty of time to get onto shelves for Holiday promotions.

The charts below have laid this year's crop development against the past few seasons.  As you can see, in Mattawa (early district) and Wenatchee Heights (later district) we are closer to 2017's June 13th start date than any other year.  Again though, there is a lot of time between now and harvest.  This crop has every potential of moving that start date up.
An animated look at the increasing warmth in one of our earliest producing districts.
Maintaining pollen viability is always important, but especially when you've got a crop that appears to be setting the more traditional 2-3 flowers per bud.  Compared to some larger seasons when trees have set up to double that, crops that begin in the 2-3 flower range and are accompanied by consistently cooler springs typically lead to some of our best eating quality fruit.  Fortunately, in most areas frost has been a minimal risk so far.  However, we've got a long way before that's no longer a concern, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.
Thanks to some early season orchards coming on-line, along with fairly consistent weather pushing all regions along, we expect yet another strong and steady start to the season once shipments begin.  That's been enormously helpful in the past few years to not only be able to provide early volume to export markets but also fill the Domestic shelves with ad volume soon out of the gate.  We expect that to be the case again this year.  The chart below illustrates our cumulative initial volumes from a few larger seasons in 20-pound box equivalents.
If nothing else is certain, what's clear is that there is a worldwide opportunity fast approaching to make a success out of the summer with the Northwest cherry crop. When the pipeline opens, will your plans and programs be ready?  Our team of U.S. regional and export representatives are setting up their Pre-Season meetings, armed with the latest materials and information from our offices.  They are always amongst the first to know, and are primed with research-supported promotion plans.  Not only that, but they're getting regular updates of the buds we cut to test bloom in our office.  So in the meantime, please feel free to reach out with any questions or stone fruit-related topics you wish to discuss.  Together, we'll turn the 2019 Northwest crops into another success for both your shelves and our over 2,100 growers.
Copyright © 2019 Northwest Cherry Growers, All rights reserved.

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