South Okanagan cherry growers might find a brightside to early frost damage
This week’s sunny days have been followed by some cooler than normal nights, which has resulted in some blossom damage to South Okanagan cherry trees.
However, the damage may turn out to be not such a bad thing after all, as the industry moves forward this year with optimism after two particularly bad years.
B.C. Fruit Growers Association general manager Glen Lucas says it’s still a bit early to tell how much damage has been done by below freezing temperatures this week, but at this point it doesn’t look like it will be something growers can’t recover from.
“Trees coming out of dormancy are more susceptible to frost the further along they are. Some orchards are reporting up to 60 per cent damage, while others are saying they weren’t affected, or only marginally,” Lucas says.
Assessing frost damage involves cutting the blossom open. If it’s black inside, it froze.
Lucas says the damage occurred in variable and isolated pockets, mostly between Oliver and Osoyoos.
“It’s unclear at this point whether the damage amounts to a good thinning job, or if it’s more severe than that. After having two short crops with poor fruit set two years in a row, growers are reporting a heavy crop this year, so a little thinning is probably okay at this stage,” he says.
Elsewhere, the Similkameen is reporting minimal damage, probably due to warmer overnight temperatures. Summerland was already reporting pre-existing winter damage, making it more difficult to ascertain what might have happened this week.
Orchards north of Summerland weren’t damaged due to the fact they aren’t quite as far advanced in the growing season.
“It’s early yet. It might actually turn out to be a good break for growers by reducing fruit set. Too much fruit on the tree isn’t good for fruit quality. The hope is for a more balanced result this year - adequate size and a reasonable quantity of cherries,” Lucas says.
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