A couple of nervous nights await Yakima Valley fruit growers as subfreezing overnight temperatures blanket fruit-growing districts.
Low temperatures Friday night were forecast to reach the upper teens in the colder locations to the low 20s, which would pose risks for bud damage in soft fruits like apricots and cherries and some early apples and pears.
Tonight is forecast to be only marginally warmer before temperatures gradually increase early next week.
“We would much prefer not to be in these types of temperatures,” said Mark LaPierre, a horticulturalist with Wilbur-Ellis Co. of Yakima, a crop consulting and supply firm. “We are thinking with that forecast, stone (fruit) and more advanced apples and pears are susceptible.”
The cold weather at the start of spring has followed a period of unseasonably warm days earlier this month that increased fruit bud development.
Matt Whiting, a Washington State University horticulturalist at the Prosser research center, said there is definite concern about weekend temperatures reaching the low 20s, at which point some bud losses would occur.
“Apricots are the first species that flowers. There are some growers in the West Valley and Parker areas that will be at risk,” Whiting said.
Some areas experienced colder temperatures Friday morning. Data maintained by the Washington State University agricultural weather network at the Prosser research center, showed Moxee recorded a low temperature of 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Pomona, east of Selah, hit 21 degrees. Wapato and Toppenish had lows of 24 degrees.
Nic Loyd, a meteorologist with the weather network, said the region is under a cold air mass following the passage of a cold front that included windy conditions. Little wind is expected this weekend to help mix the air and warm temperatures.
“We have a convergence of factors that will make for a cold series of nights,” he said.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a low this morning of 22 degrees in Yakima. Overnight low temperatures early Sunday will be 25 degrees before warming to the high 30s by midweek.