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Monday thunderstorms cause minimal damage to orchards

Local orchards suffered little damage from thunderstorms rumbling through the Rogue Valley Monday.

Orchard crews pored over thousands of acres of pear and smaller blocks of peach and apple trees Tuesday and determined growers dodged a bullet.

"There was a little scratching, but there was enough water mixed in with the hail that it didn't cause much damage," said Mike Naumes, president of Naumes Inc., which grows 1,800 acres of pears in the Rogue Valley and remains one of the larger players anywhere with 4,500 acres in three Western states.

Naumes said the third such storm to pass through the southwest Medford region this spring produced a "softer hail."

Harry & David's Bear Creek Orchards, which grows 1,600 acres of signature Royal Riviera Comice pears, was in the storm's path, but again there was little bad news.

"We did have hail through the center of town," said Harry & David Orchard Director Matt Borman.

"It wasn't catastrophic by any means, but we had a couple of orchards showing some marking."

Although he heard no reports of damaged crops, David Sugar, a horticulture professor at the Oregon State University Extension Service office, said staff members at the nearby Farm Service Agency observed dime-size hail.

A recent pattern of cold, wet springs is continuing, putting the pear crop well behind the historical trend dates.

Typically, red pear harvests start early in August with Comice kicking in sometime before Labor Day.

That wasn't the case last year, and, depending on the next two months, there could be another late pick.

Naumes reported his crops are seven to 10 days behind and Borman said Bear Creek Orchards trail the norm by 10 days.

"We definitely had a late bloom this year," Borman said.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.