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Spring Cold Snap Shrivels Colorado Apple Crop

Luke Runyon
KUNC and Harvest Public Media
Colorado's peach crop is projected to be fairly average, with a 2 percent drop from 2014.

Colorado’s apple orchards are bearing less fruit. Growers are projecting an 80 percent drop in apple production for 2015. The state’s peach producers are facing an average year.

Being a fruit grower on the state’s Western Slope can be precarious. You’re one late season frost away from major crop damage -- which is exactly what happened to apple growers. 

Think back to March 2015. A warm spell in the North Fork Valley, where a big portion of the state’s fruit is grown, caused apple, peach, apricot and pear trees to bloom early. A poorly-timed cold snap in April froze the tiny apple blossoms, leaving them stunted the rest of the season.

Fast forward and apple orchards are more bare than they should be. The state’s apple crop is projected to be 1.8 million pounds. In 2014, growers picked 8.9 million pounds.

“The fruit business is a gamble even in the best of years,” says Tom Alvey, president of Rogers Mesa Fruit, a packing company in the North Fork Valley near Hotchkiss, Colorado.

“Most growers are prepared to weather one bad year of this nature,” Alvey says.

Peach blossoms in the nearby Grand Valley weathered the late season cold snap, says Greg Litus, a researcher at Colorado State University's Western Colorado Research Center in Orchard Mesa. Production figures for those fruit crops are fairly average.

“Palisade growers didn’t see nearly as much damage as they had over in the North Fork [Valley],” Litus says.

Palisade peach stands have started popping up along the Front Range, selling early season clingstone varieties. Even though peach growers in and around Grand Junction were able to withstand the temperatures swings the state’s peach production overall is forecasted to be slightly down. For 2015, it’s projected at 13,000 tons, down 2 percent from 2014.

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