Cold helps some crops, hurts others

Cold helps some crops, hurts others

This year’s cold spring brought good and bad news to Oregon’s crops.

1010_ATS10Droughts in Russia and Kazakhstan drove the demand for U.S. wheat up, and prices hit a two-year high of $7.85 a bushel in August; as of mid-September the price was $7.54 a bushel. Combine this with Oregon’s heavy spring rains and you have some very happy farmers, especially in the Willamette Valley, where the acreage of wheat doubled in 2009. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates Oregon production of winter wheat this year at almost 60 million bushels, up 33%. Higher volumes per acre of spring wheat, barley and alfalfa hay are also expected because of the weather.

While the field crops soaked up the spring rain, fruits and berries struggled to pollinate and 1010_ATS11the cold weather stunted growth. Cherry volumes were down 20% and a state of emergency may be declared in Wasco County. “We are still waiting to get updated reports so we have an accurate damage assessment,” says Lynn Voigt, spokesman for the Oregon Farm Service Agency.

1010_ATS12Cranberry volumes are expected to be 10% less than in 2009. Prunes and plums are expected to be down 46%, almost 9 million pounds, and pears are expected to be down 12%, or 58 million pounds. Blueberry yields, however, were up more than 50 million pounds, a 4% increase. Although hazelnuts are a fall crop, the wet spring caused a lot of defective nuts. Early estimates place their production volume at 27,000 tons, a 43% decrease from 2009.1010_ATS13

Market prices for fruits and berries were higher this year, which compensated for low production. “The demand has been great,” says Cort Brazelton of Fall Creek Farm and Nursery in Lowell, adding, “There’s plenty of hope on the horizon.”

CORY MIMMS