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Cherry trees not fooled by spring-like conditions

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POLSON — With unseasonably warm temperatures, tulips are poking inquisitive green fingers up to test the weather. Can the Flathead cherry trees be far behind?

Cherries are an important agricultural crop up the east shore of Flathead Lake, so that’s a question worrying many growers as coming cold could damage tender shoots.

“There’s been no evidence of bud swell in my orchard,” Ken Edgington said.

Edgington, a Flathead Lake Cherry Growers board member, said he’d been talking to two or three other growers who hadn’t seen an evidence of cherry tree buds yet nor have they heard of any budding. 

Ken and Julie Gochis, cherry growers whose orchard is on the south end of Flathead Lake, said their cherry trees are “still holding fairly good.”

They’re hoping temperatures will go back down into the 30s. Ken said the cherries usually blossom about May 8, but he’s predicting an early blossom, about the third week in April.

Brian Campbell, the local Monson Fruit Company representative, is in the orchards frequently.

“The trees are not budding,” Campbell said. “They definitely have lost some of their winter hardiness, which would make them more susceptible to a real bad freeze — if we got down to zero degrees.” 

He predicts if the warm weather continues, the local cherry crop will ripen sooner than normal.

“It’s too early to say that we’re early,” Campbell said.

One thing “that is kind of a news story” in the cherry world, according to Campbell, is that California’s weather didn’t cooperate. Cherry trees have to go through a cold cycle, “a dormancy to set the flowers,” which didn’t happen in California this year. 

Oregon cherry growers also had a weather issue — they had a horrible freeze in November, according to Campbell. With a small cherry crop expected in Oregon, it “bodes well for our market,” Campbell said. “If the whole northwest is short on cherries, just due to supply and demand, there’s bound to be a good demand for cherries,” Campbell said.

 

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