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High Temperature and Smoke Impact Apple Crop, as of Aug. 20-2021

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Information provided by Hermann G. Thoennissen HTG International, LLC

Gala Harvest is well underway as are the early selections of Honeycrisp. A few Grannies have been picked. Goldens are losing the ridges quickly and smoothing out nicely. Both varieties either meet or are close to the required brix levels to pass the WSDA inspection requirements for pre-release-date shipping.

Growers who rely on domestic labor only are seeing a rapidly tightening supply of workers. Skilled equipment operators are near impossible to find under $20,-/hr.

Non H2A Gala per bin picking is between $30 to $35, in the southern Basin and along the Snake.

Non H2A for Hcp with stem-clip and select pick range is $ 38,- to $44,-.

I heard that a daily show-up fee of $10,- is being paid on one occasion with domestic labor.

These observations are only from the first few days of harvest for the area Basin City and south and along the Snake River.

Comments on fruit quality:

  • Following the record setting temperatures for both daily high temperature as well as daily low temperatures (we have set several new low temps that were the warmest lows recorded) we are now experiencing several days of significant smoke coverage in WA.

  • Pasco had more than a week of UV Index below 5 for most of the day. Above 7 is normal for this time of year.

  • The air quality index has been as high as 250 and in some places has reached above that. The last 5 days particle matter was consistently above PM25. This restricts photosynthesis and with that the normal maturation process. It also has an impact on labor. Some picking operations were halted due to the new WA standards on worker protection and particle size.

  • Fruit core temperatures have been above 65ºF since mid-May and above 75ºF since the first heat wave in June. Many apples had core temps of above 100ºF on several occasions.

  • In 2021 we have a combination of heat first, then smoke.

  • Irrigation water temps of 80ºF+ were measured in some canals. This narrow DeltaT is not enough to introduce or enhance color development.

  • When talking to researchers and colleagues none of us knows what these impacts have on internal fruit-quality, storability or the gas exchange characteristics that make for the different storage regimes.

  • We know that the June record high temps have done internal damage to the flesh and this damage very most likely will be detected by the cameras on a pack-line.

  • All fieldmen I have spoken with, share that they observing a visual difference in the fruit flesh appearance/consistency between the sunny side and the shaded side of the fruit.

  • This difference is more pronounced in the southern regions and in orchards with no cooling or shade cloth.

  • In both cooled- non-cooled orchards fruit on the outer perimeter esp fruit on the SW side of the tree shows more irregularities in the flesh when compared to fruit on the east side of the canopy. (N to S row direction)

  • Much of this internal flesh damage cannot be seen by the picker, thus it will end up in a bin. What will the impact of such fruit be in the bin? Will it start generating Ethylene and / or CO2 in storage ? Both gases will require removal from the storage unit. Their presence will shorten storage life.

  • Mixed maturity in the bin will be a significant challenge for the 2021 crop. This will be even more challenging for fruit to be stored past April 2022.

  • This very most likely will lead to a much higher percentage of fruit having to be shipped in the first six month of the shipping-year. (esp early maturing varieties Wildfire, Gala, Premier Hcp and Hcp).

My greatest concern is the mixed maturity in the bin. It will give challenges in storage regimes past April 2022.


About Hermann G. Thoennissen

Hermann G. Thoennissen (affectionately known as Herman The German) is a friend of with deep expertise in orchard development & management, employee training, and business transition.

With 35+ years of experience in various orchard management positions in WA State, 30+ years as the owner of HTG International LLC., 20+ years of experience in using aerial imagery in permanent crop production and also being an active team member of FarmCloud since 2012, Hermann provides consulting services to some of the largest organizations in the global Tree fruit and Ag industry in the western US and China. is happy to share exclusive access to Hermann's research notes on the effects of the fires in Washington State.



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