Rain Threatens Valley Crops

FRESNO, Calif. Once cherries ripen they are susceptible to damage caused by the rain. Fresno cherry grower Mitch Sangha said he was taking steps to protect his crop. "I'll get my rig in here and keep blowing air all night."

The strong winds from a spray rig blasting through Sangha's cherry orchard have but one purpose - to blast the water off his cherries.

Sangha said, "We can't have that water stay overnight because that'll cause fungus in there."

Sangha's cherry trees are full of red ripe fruit but he had to send his workers home because of the rain. Water dripping off the trees leaves can ruin an entire crop. Sangha explained, "The water stays in there and it gets absorbed into the cherry. When it heats up that water expands and just cracks it."

Cracked cherries taste the same but are unmarketable because of cosmetic reasons. The first full day of the blueberry harvest also had to be postponed because of rain. Caruthers farmer Mark Sorensen said, "We have to have it dry and more than likely this is gonna stay wet all night."

Sorensen says the rain can cause cracks in blueberries as well but that wasn't his main concern. He said, "The fruit once it gets wet and goes into the box or the tray it won't dry on its own so it creates mold so we just stop."

Sorensen regularly walks his field to check on his crop. He's used to harvesting under sunny skies but that will have to wait. Sorensen said, "This is so much fun for me, not in the rain."

Local strawberry growers now hope the wind picks up to help dry their berries. Otherwise, their crop may suffer mold and mildew damage.

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