Harvest begins in lower, middle valleys

Early harvest reports suggest that frost and wind may have mildly affected the Bartlett pear crop in Hood River Valley.

Orchardists in the lower and middle parts of the valley began picking Bartletts this week, following the smaller harvest of Star Crimson pears in the lower valley.

“The quality is not as good as we had last year, based on fruit size and some frost marking because we had quite a few cold nights,” said Craig Mallon, field supervisor with Duckwall Fruit in Odell. He said markings from “limb rub” seem to be prevalent, following an “exceptionally windy year” in the valley.

The result could be that some of the Bartletts, primarily destined for canneries, could be downgraded from top grade, Mallon said.

“We’re just getting some fruit in from the lower valley, but the first indications are that it is lighter crop than we thought,” he said.

“From what we see now, the last couple years had some very nice quality, clean pears, and it looks like in certain areas of the valley this crop has a few more defects to it and may be a bit smaller,” Mallon said.

Orchardist Steve Bickford of Pine Grove said his Bartlett crop will be “a little less than last year, but a good crop.” He expects to pick 1,200-1,300 bins of Bartletts.

Mallon said the pear bloom dates were “a tad late,” in April, and the weather was cool in the crucial first six weeks following bloom day.

Mallon said harvesting of upper valley Star Crimsons should start next week, followed by upper valley Bartletts a week after that. Bartletts make up about 30 percent of the pear harvest in Hood River Valley.

The estimated start for the county’s primary pear, Anjous, is Sept. 9 in the lower valley, Mallon said. Upper valley Anjous start later in September. Anjous comprise 60 percent of all pears picked in Hood River County.

Bickford was glad to be harvesting.

“This is the time of year when we start to make money instead of spending it. This is the culmination of the entire year,” he said.

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