Growers in pickers in San Joaquin County will take the next couple of days to assess damage to their cherry crops after unprecedented rain this past week halted harvest.

“There were some spots that were hit more significantly with the rainfall than others,” Bruce Blodgett of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau said. “Some areas kind of got through with minor damage and relatively unscathed, while others got harder hit and are going to see some bigger impacts to those crops.”

As precipitation came to a halt Tuesday, growers across the county did their best to dry off their cherries by using low-flying helicopters in an attempt to clear off some of the water.

Cherries are one of San Joaquin County's most profitable crops, netting more than $89 million, according to the 2018 annual county crop report. But when large amounts of rain occur, as it did last week, many cherries can become unusable.

“What happens in cherries is up towards the top of the cherry, where the stem comes out, it collects water when it rains and if it sits there it can crack the cherry. Once the cherry cracks its not marketable,” San Joaquin Agricultural Commissioner Tim Pelican said.

Blodgett said early reports are showing a range of damage across the county. In some cases one farm's crop yield will be strongly affected, while another farm a mile away may have come out unscathed, Blodgett said.

“These cells went through kind of, they weren't a wide storm thankfully, which is what we had last year, an extended period of time of heavy rains in the county that pretty much wiped out 90 percent of crops,” Blodgett said.

Last year, a late surge of storms pummeled cherry crops across the county, with estimates showing up to an 80% crop loss.

After talking to some farmers and packers, Blodgett said early estimates of lost cherries this year are as low as a 5-10% impact, and up to significantly higher losses in some areas. He expects the damages to be much less this year, partly because of an anticipated lighter crop yield.

“Now we will probably see even less,” he said.

Fred Podesta, of Podesta Packing in Linden, said he expects to find damage throughout his cherry crops, but because rain finally stopped Tuesday morning, it was too early to tell what the impact is.

“You can get a lot of cracking and you have to pick them out and throw them away because they are not marketable,” Podesta said. “The growers lose them because there is no value to them. Then you lose workers. Pickers don't have jobs, people don't have jobs. It affects everybody. Pickers, growers, truck drivers.”

Blodgett said San Joaquin County can lose up to $100 million from a good to bad year just from cherries alone. But with weather starting to turn in the right direction, he believes the crop may be in the clear.

“We're are holding our breaths now,” Blodgett said. “It looks like the weather is changing and changing for a while, so we are hoping that this is the last of the rainfall to be dealing with here so we can get through this cherry harvest.”

Contact reporter Justin Frommer at (209) 546-8272 or jfrommer@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinbFrommer.