- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The fall harvest of Wisconsin’s official state fruit is at its peak.

By the end of the month, the harvest of the state’s No. 1 fruit crop will be largely over, according to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association.

The cranberry harvest was delayed by a week to 10 days due to cooler temperatures just now arriving - key to turning the white berries into crimson fruit, the association’s executive director, Tom Lochner, said.

“Before the growers can deliver, the fruit needs to reach a certain minimal color. Because of the warm weather, the fruit hasn’t colored up,” Lochner said

Wisconsin leads the country in cranberry production with about 60 percent of the nation’s supply - grown on 21,000 acres in 20 counties in the northern and central parts of the state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has predicted Wisconsin will harvest 5 million to 5.3 million barrels of the nation’s 8 million barrels of cranberries. Lochner expects that to be closer to 5 million barrels, an average harvest for Wisconsin.

“We saw some winter damage on the vines this spring. That kind of caught up to us,” he said.

All cranberries, including those made into juice, sauce, sweetened dried fruit or sold fresh are “wet-harvested” in Wisconsin, meaning the cranberry beds are flooded with water and a machine moves through the marsh and removes the berries from the vines. The cranberries that float to the surface are corralled and pumped out of the bog.

Even a week’s delay in the harvest can backlog processing plants. “That’ll put pressure on everybody along the line,” Lochner said.

Growers say 3 to 5 percent of Wisconsin cranberries are sold as fresh fruit.

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