Warmer winter is hurting California cherry crop

Jun 12, 2015

The drought isn't helping matters, but the primary concern for cherry farmers in California is the lack of winter chill, reported Lisa Morehouse on KQED's The California Report.

Morehouse spoke to Bill Coates, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources expert based at the UC Cooperative Extension office in San Benito County. He said cherries are more sensitive than other crops to a lack of chill hours. Because of a warming weather trend during the winter, bing cherry trees look confused about what season it is.

“You have some ripe cherries, you have some blossoms, some branches that are almost devoid of leaves, and you have some buds that are still dormant,” he explains. “And this is all a result of lack of chilling.”

Bing cherries need about 1,000 hours under 45 degrees for healthy dormancy. Last year San Benito County got just over 500 hours.

"People may disagree on the cause of the change," Coates says, "but there definitely has been a change in the climate, and it's going to impact tree crops greatly."

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist