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MailTribune.com
  • Hail has local pear growers checking for damage

    Talent got the fiercest storm; it may take days for defects to be determined, says expert
  • Random volleys of hail peppered orchards and vineyards Tuesday, keeping crews busy late into Wednesday searching for crop damage.
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  • Random volleys of hail peppered orchards and vineyards Tuesday, keeping crews busy late into Wednesday searching for crop damage.
    The hailstorms that swept through the southern reaches of the Bear Creek drainage were nothing unusual for this time of the year, but created plenty of angst.
    "Anytime the fruit is set, hail is bad; when it gets closer to harvest, it's worse" said Doug Lowry, CEO of Associated Fruit, which works 500 acres in the alley. "We're just a couple of weeks from picking certain varieties."
    The hail was concentrated around Talent, said Phil VanBuskirk, of Oregon State University's Southern Oregon Experiment Station.
    "It appears extensive in some places, but we don't know how many orchards were hit, because we're still out there assessing the damage," VanBuskirk said.
    For the most part, the hail appeared to be round and smooth in nature with fewer of the jagged edges that tend to shred leaves and heavily damage exposed fruit.
    "On the surface, it may not show for a day or two," VanBuskirk said. "If you peel the skin off a pear or peach, you can better see if it has damage."
    Bigger operations, such as Naumes Inc., Harry & David's Bear Creek Orchards, and Associated Fruit, tend to have blocks spread about the valley, so the economic impact of hail is minimized.
    "When you diversify your location, you don't have your eggs all in one basket, so you don't lose everything," VanBuskirk said. "You're going to take a hit, but not like a smaller grower who has all their pears in one location."
    Although Harry & David has large holdings near Talent, including blocks east of the freeway, there was little initial damage reported, said spokeswoman Rhonda Klug.
    "The impact to our orchards were very minimal so (that was) great news," she said.
    Longtime Talent orchardist Ron Meyer, who grows pears on 115 acres, said the damage around his place was fairly minor.
    "When the hail comes with rain it doesn't seem to do as much damage," Meyer said. "We were lucky enough to be on the edge of it."
    VanBuskirk said he fears vineyards — typically much smaller in nature than pear blocks — could have taken big hits.
    "It could be devastating for a few growers," he said. "Hail goes through clusters and will damage a berry. That berry will rot and cause the rest of the cluster to rot as well."
    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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