A hot year for bigger Southern Oregon pears?

Record temperatures have been ideally timed to boost fruits' size, say local growers
Pear trees grow in an orchard near Payne Road in Medford. Pear growers say the record heat has come at a good time and could boost the fruit size.

Record-warm temperatures this week should give local pear crops a boost. In fact, the timing is just right for a few days in the 90-degree range, according to growers.

"It gets the pears off to a good running start and gets them up and growing," said Mike Naumes, president of Naumes Inc.

David Sugar, a pathologist with Oregon State University's Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, said the heat could make for bigger pears come harvest time.

"I don't think there are any negatives," Sugar said. "It's just very warm, and that stimulates the fruit size. This is the active cell-division stage of fruit development. The temperatures favor more cells, and then they plump up through the rest of the growing season."

Associated Fruit CEO Doug Lowry said the fruit size is good news, but no guarantee of a great outcome.

"It's a good early indicator, but we're still on the front end of things," Lowry said. "There are so many elements to take into consideration. "There are a lot of storms that could come through and bring hail, and that sort of thing."

One concern, said Lowry, who operates orchards on 500 acres, was the late date for access to irrigation water following a relatively dry winter.

"So far, we're OK," he said.

While local pears might be a hefty surprise next fall, Naumes said the California cherry crop — from Bakersfield to Yuba City — will be disappointing.

"We're estimating three million boxes," Naumes said. "The pollinating just didn't get done. In some areas there wasn't enough overnight chilling. There was no (tule) fog this year, so the buds dried out. There have been all kinds of theories as to why."

By contrast, Washington cherry growers will pack as many as 30 million boxes, although Naumes said he expects the final figure to be closer to 20 million.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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