Pacific North West farmers having to protect crops from extreme heat

Hotter temperatures are changing the agricultural landscape in the Pacific Northwest, especially for tree fruit growers.

More and more people are covering their crops with shade netting or some other type of material, and then they’re looking at misters, which are like foggers that help create a cooler atmosphere in the orchards, sometimes a combination of both, said one farmer.

The farmer installed evaporative cooling at about 90 percent of his sites, covering about 30 percent of his crops. He also uses calcium and kaolin clay sprays, which physically cover fruit to protect it. In his experience, mitigations lead to about 20 percent to 30 percent less damage accoring to the

Washington leads the nation in producing apples and sweet cherries, but it’s not just tree fruit crops under threat in the region. A large portion of the country’s processed berries are grown in the Pacific Northwest, as are much of the nation’s potatoes. During the deadly heat wave of 2021, researchers found that berries dried up on the vines and potato plant leaves were scorched and curled inward, an indicator of heat stress that can impact quality.

As growers work to preserve crops in hotter temperatures, regulators have also been working to ensure workers are protected as well. Farmworkers have long lacked protections from dangerous condition caused by the climate crisis, leading Oregon to pass heat and smoke regulations. Advocates in Florida have pushed for safeguards, and Washington passed smoke and heat regulations after the 2021 event.

Climate data continues to show a trend of warmer temperatures across the U.S., with growing impacts in the historically mild Northwest. Summer 2022 in the contiguous U.S. was the third-hottest recorded in 128 years, t he National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports, with an average 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Idaho, Washington, and Oregon each had the warmest August on record. Data from Climate Central’s Climate Shift Index tool, which measures the fingerprint of climate change in daily weather, found most of the Northwest experienced 15-30 days of daytime high temps that were made at least twice as likely by climate change.


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