scorched raspberry crops

The extreme late-June heat scorched raspberry crops around Whatcom County, leading to crop loss for berry growers. (Courtesy photo/Barb Kraght)

Next year’s plants look good, but 2021 led to some crop loss

WHATCOM — When Barb Kraght woke up one morning this summer and headed outside, she immediately called her husband, Randy, to report what she found.

“I called him at 5 a.m. and said, ‘Everything’s orange. It didn’t even turn red,’” she said.

The summer of 2021 was unprecedented for local berry growers large and small, and the associated heat waves wreaked particular havoc on raspberry crops.

Temperatures climbed above 100 degrees and with little to no shelter from the sun, local raspberry crops very visibly burned from the heat.

“It really hurt our early variety of raspberries pretty tremendously,” Kraght said. “The plants just shut down and quit photosynthesizing.”

Kraght said they lost a lot of their early-variety crop to sunburn. The plants shut down and went into survival mode, she said, and they lost about half of the early variety of their raspberry crop. Those plants were at their peak when the hottest temperatures hit Whatcom County in late June.

“We don’t have that much of (the early variety), but it’s a significant amount for us,” Kraght said.

The raspberry plants ended up turning around, but the fruit didn’t have time to do so, she said. The blueberry crop, on the other hand, did better, though some of the fruit at the top of the plants did burn.

“And we had a really good strawberry season,” Kraght said. “The heat came at the end of strawberry season.”

Julie Enfield of Enfield Farms said her farm saw a decrease in crop volume in terms of raspberries.

“We were about 30% down,” she said.

Enfield said the crops simply shut down and stopped producing, and she said the blueberry crop wasn’t nearly as significantly affected as the raspberries due to the timing of the heat wave.

“The volume of blueberries seemed to hold okay,” she said.

Enfield said this has really never happened before, so there’s no way to know how it might affect next season’s raspberry crop. Early signs are promising, however.

“The canes for next you do look really good,” she said.

On the afternoon of Monday, June 28, the National Weather Service recorded a temperature of 99 degrees at its official recording station at Bellingham International Airport, breaking the previous record of 96 degrees set in July 2009.

In northern Whatcom County, however, temperatures reached as high as 107 on Sunday, June 27, according to the Clearbrook National Weather Service Station on Van Buren Road outside Everson.

Previously, the all-time high was 102, recording on two separate July dates in 1941 and 1958, according to the Perry family, who operate the Clearbrook weather station.

Some in Whatcom County reported temperatures as high as 115 degrees.