PROSSER — Weather experts have issued a warning that this weekend’s cold spell could harm cherry buds, but industry officials have little concern.
Weather forecasts calling for temperatures around zero Saturday night and today could threaten dormant cherry buds, according to a notice from AgWeatherNet, a Prosser-based weather system operated by Washington State University.
Officials performed tests early last week for cold hardiness — a measure of temperatures that plants can tolerate — in Prosser and Benton City.
“While orchard management practices affect the cold hardiness of cherries, there is currently a high degree of confidence that temperatures will pass the threshold where damage to buds is likely to occur,” the news release said.
Some bud damage is natural every year, however, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers. In fact, growers count on it as a natural thinning tool.
“(The cold) is not a big deal yet,” Thurlby said. “It would have to get 10 below before we have to worry.”
All fruit trees and grapevines build up tolerance to cold as the season progresses, but abrupt dips in temperature still can harm either the buds or the plant cells that transfer water during the irrigation season.