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Okanagan grape growers looking for sunshine and heat to finish the summer

A number of Okanagan grape growers experienced vine damage from the cold temperatures this past winter and spring.
A number of Okanagan grape growers experienced vine damage from the cold temperatures this past winter and spring.

OKANAGAN FALLS - Okanagan grape growers have mixed opinions about this year’s growing season, as they deal with some unusual weather conditions compared to recent years.

Okanagan Falls' Blasted Church vineyards manager John Bayley says he’s heard varying reviews of the season so far from grape growers.

“Personally, I think it’s been fine. This July has been a pretty wet month compared to the last few years, but cold damage from last winter and spring is probably the most significant issue,” he says.

Bayley says many growers up and down the Okanagan Valley are reporting cold damage to a number of vines that have resulted in a complete loss of fruit from those plants.

“It seems to be dependent on the type of soil. It’s not frost damage, but it is related to the cold spring weather, coming after the early warm winter conditions,” he says.

Although the vines affected aren’t dead, the vine's growth now consists of shoots coming off the head and suckers from the base of the trunk rather than from the canes, and will have to be retrained over the next few years before becoming fruit-bearing again.

Bayley says the cold damage was highly variable from vineyard to vineyard throughout the Okanagan.

“We have 17 different blocks, two of those with about 15 per cent loss from cold damage. I’m hearing there was more damage in the Similkameen,” Bayley says, adding damage in Oliver and Osoyoos might have been mitigated by the sandier soils prevalent there.

Bayley says the crop is at or near normal stages of development for this time of year. At a recent conference, one grower told him they were a week ahead of last year, while some said they were behind.

“Personally, I think I’m a few days behind last year. This week’s cooler weather may have a slowdown effect, but August is still a big part of it. Last year we had so much smoke in August, we’ll have to wait and see what happens this year.”

Bayley says fruit set and quantity look pretty good this year, with lots of fruit on undamaged vines.

Insect problems have also been minimal so far this year, with cutworm numbers about normal and a lower than normal number of leafhoppers being reported so far.

“Hopefully we’ll get some warm weather for the rest of the summer and into September, with no smoke.”

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