Fire of a different kind affects Rogue Valley pear industry

TALENT, Ore.– Industries across southern Oregon are still assessing how bad the smoke affected business this year. For agriculture and more specifically, pear farmers – the smoke may have been a nuisance to those out in the fields but it didn’t quite have an affect on produce.

However, that doesn’t mean those in the Rogue Valley aren’t facing a slew of other problems.

According to Ron Meyer, owner of Meyer Orchards in Talent, this year has been one of the worst he’s ever experienced in the 60 years he’s worked on the farm. It’s not that the harvest this year was bad, in fact, Meyer says they were able to produce 300 tonnes – just a little below their yearly average.

While many expect the smoke to affect the crop as well, he says it doesn’t seem to hurt the pears. Instead, he’s facing something a lot worse.

“Fire blight is a bacteria which goes into the trees, generally through the blossoms,” said Meyer .”And how it got it’s name is the branches that are infected look like they were burned.”

Spreading across farms when temperatures are warm and humid during the spring time, fire blight can devastate whole orchards if left unchecked. Meyer says this spring was one of the worst, forcing him to decide whether to cut out as much as the blight as he could or completely uproot the whole farm.

“It is so serious that it was a choice between trying to cut it out or remove the whole orchard,” he said.

With 14,000 trees on the farm, trimming and pruning the infected branches takes time and lots of effort and losses are inevitable. So far, Meyer says he’s lost 50 trees and it’s already costing him for next year’s crop.

“Now that we’re cutting the blight, of course you’re gonna cut out a lot of wood that would bear normally,” he said.

There are solutions like antibiotics but Meyer says with longer, more humid springs, pears might be harder to come by in the Rogue Valley soon.

“If we can’t control blight or get weather conditions not so conducive to blight as we had this year,” he said. “It could mean the end of the pear industry here in the Rogue Valley.”

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