Summer fruit crop soured by storms

Summer fruit crop soured by storms

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's summer fruit crops took a hit from all those storms in June. Farmers say the heavy rains and some hail damaged fruit that was ready for harvest or close to it.

An estimated 30 percent of Utah's sweet cherries were lost in the storms.

"It was pea-sized hail," said Steve Pettingill, who has farms in Weber County. "It was very long and hard. It shredded the trees."

Pettingill estimated he lost about half his cherry crop and his watermelon and cantaloupe were damaged by hail. He also lost apples and all the moisture from the rain left some of his apricots with fungus.

"It's still marketable, but it's a little tough to market," he said.

The damaged fruit can still be sold, but at a discount.

Mike Pace, a Utah State University extension agent who works with farmers in Box Elder County, said while rain is essential for any agriculture, too much of falling when fruit is ripening can be devastating.

"The amount of rain you get will cause that fruit to enlarge and rupture and split," Pace said.

According to the National Weather Service, northern Utah received 300 percent more rainfall than average last month. While many growers sprayed their fruit to prevent fungus, Pace said the rain washed it off.

Less fruit for sale means less money for farmers, who will hire fewer seasonal laborers to pick the smaller crop.

Robert McMullin of McMullin Orchards in Payson, one of the state's largest orchards, also lost some cherries, but had 70 percent of their crop insured.

McMullin said the insurance will help cover some overhead costs like upkeep and irrigation, but it's not the same as having a healthy crop.

"It helps us pay the bills, it doesn't give us any profit," he said.


Information from: Deseret News

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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