By Associated Press • 

Southern Oregon pear growers take steps to keep fruit cool


MEDFORD — Southern Oregon farmers might be suffering as temperatures soar, but they're not the only ones -- several orchards are taking steps to protect the fruit they're growing.

Pear growers like Talent orchardist Ron Meyer have developed measures to keep their crops cool in threatening triple-digit temperatures, the Medford Mail Tribune reported ( ).

“Generally speaking, pears quit growing when it gets over 100 degrees,” explained Meyer. “So far, that hasn't happened. We've put sun blocker on the varieties that are the most susceptible and the orchards that have overhead sprinklers and water available have been turning them on in the afternoon to keep them cool. If you don't have that option, then you have to get in the rotation to wait for irrigation.”

Sunblock made from micronized calcium carbonate doesn't work for all varieties, but it can minimize sunburn and heat stress for two of Jackson County's mainstay commercial crops, Red Anjous and Comice.

Orchardists caught a break Sunday after a succession of 100-degree days, but forecasts show more triple-digit highs with a peak of 111 degrees on Thursday.

Until this point, growing conditions have been nearly perfect. Meyer said he even pushed harvest dates two weeks ahead of normal and anticipates Bartlett picking to begin August 10 to 15. Normally it is August 20 to September 1.

“We have one of the nicest pear crops we've ever had,” Meyer said. “It's nice and clean with no russeting.”

Meyer remembers scorching temperatures harming family crops in the 1950s, but says modern-day orchards have better protection.

“I've seen it reach as high as 114 here, and actually burn pears on the trees,” he said. “That was 60 years ago or more. We didn't have the sunblocker or irrigation we have now.”

Orchards used to keep the ground bare beneath trees, but that reflected heat and caused problems. Now, Meyer said, there is grass between the rows of trees.

Despite the lowest snowpack on record, Meyer thinks there will be plenty of irrigation water for most growers to make it through the summer, though farmers dependent on smaller stream flows might stuffer.

Still, the orchardist said he expects reservoirs to be empty by the end of growing season and worries about the effect of another abnormally dry winter.

“The demand is high right now,” Meyer said. “I would say we're using 25 percent more water than usual.”


Information from: Mail Tribune,

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