Drought delays harvest of cranberry crop

LONGVIEW — The dry fall weather has delayed the cranberry crop on the Long Beach Peninsula in southwest Washington, and growers are keeping an eye on their bogs to ensure they have enough water to harvest.

Industry experts say the drought will push the harvest out into November, drive up labor costs and put the crop in danger of frost damage, the Longview Daily News reported Saturday.

“It makes it more expensive because instead of getting the crop in in two weeks, you get it in on and off,” Kim Patten of the Washington State University Long Beach extension unit told the newspaper.

Patten says there’s a possibility that a hard fall freeze could damage the crops before it is harvested.

Cranberries typically are gathered by flooding the bogs, beating the bushes to loosen the fruit and then skimming the berries off the surface. Some Long Beach growers who use this method don’t have enough water to harvest continually because of the unusually dry summer and early fall, Patten said.

“You have to wait for the system to recharge — two or three days or longer between beds,” she told the Daily News.

Cranberries are a $2 million industry on the peninsula. About 30 growers produce the bitter fruit for Ocean Spray to make juice and snacks such as Craisins.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent forecast in August, Oregon and Washington growers are expected to increase production this year by about 13 percent. Nationwide, the 2012 cranberry crop is expected to be 7.68 million barrels, down less than one percent from 2011.

For dry harvesters, such as those who operate in Grayland, the dry weather “is a godsend” during the harvest season, Patten said.

Frank Glenn, who owns Evergreen Farm in Long Beach, was one of the few Long Beach growers who started harvesting this week. He’s worried about having enough water later in the season to protect the fruit from the cold.

“It affects the harvesting, because you have to be really careful with the water you have,” Glenn told the newspaper.

Glenn, who started farming bogs in 1965, is optimistic about a plentiful harvest, despite the drought conditions. He said he drew water from his 40-acre pond to make up for the lack of late summer rain.

“I’m hoping that the crop turns out to be as good as it’s been so far,” he said.

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