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No Bear Lake raspberries?

Growers are blaming their dying plants on virus, mid-June frost

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A northern Utah area known for its raspberries may not have much fresh fruit to offer this summer.

Raspberry growers in Bear Lake, near the Idaho border, attribute dying berry plants to a virus and a mid-June frost.

The plants usually bear fruit in late July and early August, but growers say this year's crop is not promising.

"I don't know if we're even going to have any," said Tina Price, who sells homemade raspberry jam.

Price works with her father-in-law, Arlo Price. He grows 40 acres of the berries.

She attributes the dying plants to both a virus and the freeze.

"It makes the plants more susceptible to things. I don't know if we're going to scratch any out or not," she said.

"I'm not too concerned. If we can replant and put in some virus-free ones, then I'll be OK," she said. "But as far as fresh berries, there's not going to be an overabundance."

But Arlo Price, owner of the Price Bear Lake Berry Farm, said rather than replanting, retirement might be in order.

"The kids aren't into it. And I'm getting to the point where I don't think I'm into it. I'm too old," he said.

Arlo Price said the virus is to blame.

"It's taken the whole thing. It's taken the roots as well. The only way we'll stay in the berry business would be to get a whole new variety of berry."

Some agricultural experts aren't sure about the berry virus.

"I find the virus story skeptical, because the virus doesn't move into raspberries that fast," said Utah State University's Sherm Thompson, professor of plant pathology.

After affecting one or two plants the virus takes a year or two to get a strong hold, he said.

"They had raspberries last year, and they looked good," he said.

Thompson is, however, planning on investigating the possibility of a plant virus near Bear Lake.

"We've got a problem," said Ted Hildt of North Garden City, owner of Hildt's Bearlake Raspberry Farm. Hildt, attributes his loss to the freeze.

"I don't know how much of loss I've got. It's going to be a small crop, though," he said.

It's all in a season's work for berry farmers, he said.

"We have good years and bad years," Hildt said. "This a bad year. We almost never have the same type of a crop year to year to year."