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Northwest Farmers Worry As Fruit Buds 'Push' Early

East of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, it’s been about five to 10 degrees warmer than normal for most of the winter. Those unusually warm conditions have buds on fruit trees and grapevines starting to “push,” or emerge early.

And that has farmers worried.

Crews have already started pruning at the McNary Vineyard on the Washington bluffs of the Columbia River. Around 30 men are pruning the vines, carefully leaving two buds on each spur for the fruit’s fresh growth to emerge.

Vineyard General Manager David Forsyth explained that the warm winter is starting to swell buds with water and sap. That means they can be more easily damaged by coming cold snaps.

“Will that be an issue or not? We don’t know,” Forsyth said. “We do have wind machines here to help us move the air around if we does get cold.”

Forsyth said he hopes to get some consistent cold weather that slows the buds’ development, keeping them hardier longer.

Forsyth also said that it’s been harder in recent years to assemble and keep a crew every year, so they started back in January.

“There’s more vineyards going in. More orchards going in,” he said. “Certainly the immigration issues get tougher every year.”

They are doing more at the vineyard with machines. But it will still take this crew a month and a half to prune all 660 acres.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.