Valley growers assess storm damage

FRESNO, Calif.

The heavy rain and hail came with some stone fruit trees still in bloom. The warmth of the sun allowed Valley orchards and fields to dry out after the big storms.

French plum trees in an Easton orchard were still in bloom. Local grower Earl Giacolini was busy assessing storm damage. He explained, "This year we had all this cold weather and storms during our bloom time so for the first time in like 25 years I had to put some bees in."

Bees cooped up in boxes when it was cold and wet were now out working, pollinating whatever blossoms were left. The plum trees normally are self-pollinating when it's warm and dry in the spring. Giacolini said, "The storms have come at the wrong time for us. We're grateful for the water but right now we need 70-degree weather and it would have been nice to have it last week."

The trees have begun to leaf out. Giacolini's plum bloom lasts just a few more days and he has already seen some damage. "This one has already turned brown so no matter how many bees were here if it's not pollinated now it won't pollinate."

Along with plums, some nectarine trees were also still in bloom.

Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League said, "As far as the tree fruit industry, I think everybody was concerned the amount of how many blooms were really staying on the trees. From the heavy rain to various times, hail that we've had. Soft hail, heavy hail."

Vegetable growers did not report widespread damage. Workers took advantage of the nice weather to harvest their crops.

Many growers say it will take a few weeks to see if the storms caused a drastic drop in their tree crop.

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