Clovis News

Shifty weather disrupts Valley crop growth

Valley growers are worried the cool weather may chill people's taste for summer fruit – and less-than-ideal temperatures could delay harvests.

And it certainly has put a halt to traditional summer fun. Both Fresno-area water parks, Wild Water Adventure Park east of Clovis and Island Waterpark west of Highway 99, announced Friday that they were closing for the weekend because of the inclement weather. Each announced they would reopen next Friday.

This time of year, temperatures should be reaching the upper 80s to low 90s. But Friday's high was 75 degrees. And the National Weather Service is forecasting a 60% chance of rain today and Sunday, with highs in the mid-to-lower 60s. There also is a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday.

"I was wearing a jacket the other day," said John Thiesen, general manager of tree fruit grower-packer Giumarra of Reedley. "I think the fruit is as confused as we are."

The forecast for next week remains on the cooler side. Monday has a 20% chance of rain with a high of 69 degrees. Tuesday calls for sunny skies and a high of 73 degrees.

The cooler temperatures – about 10 degrees below normal – have slowed the development of fruit and row crops by one to two weeks. For grape and cotton farmers, that means harvesting during potentially rainy weather.

Tree fruit growers, meanwhile, say the fall-like weather puts a damper on consumers' appetite for summertime fruit such as peaches, plums and nectarines.

Thiesen said cooler weather across the country has created a sluggish market for early varieties of summer tree fruit.

At the worst, the Valley's tree fruit industry may have fewer days to sell its fruit. But growers such as Wayne Brandt in Reedley are optimistic they can make up any lost marketing opportunities this summer.

"Once schools let out and the temperatures start to warm up, things will start flowing," Brandt said.

Grape and cotton farmers are hoping the Valley's weather returns to a more normal pattern. The two crops are major commodities in the Valley, and both are susceptible to late-season rains.

Too much rain can ruin raisin grapes and reduce the quality of cotton.

Wet weather also could lead to more mildew problems for wine and table grapes, especially with rainy weather in the forecast.

"Growers can protect their crops with fungicides and sulfur, but there is also a cost factor involved," said Nat DiBuduo, president of the Fresno-based Allied Grape Growers.

Cotton growers are increasingly anxious. High prices have prompted more growers to farm cotton, and no one wants a disappointing season.

Cotton growers got off to a slow start last year, too, but they got lucky with ideal fall harvesting weather: dry and mild temperatures.

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