For cherry growers, it's time for the rain to stop - InfoNews

Current Conditions

Cloudy
12.1°C

For cherry growers, it's time for the rain to stop

FILE PHOTO - Tractors assist helicopters from the ground, driving with blowers up and down each row. Central Okanagan cherry growers are dealing with excessive rain this week as the cherry crop ripens.
June 26, 2020 - 7:30 AM

It’s crunch time for Okanagan cherry growers preparing to harvest early-ripening varieties as June rains threaten a crop already hurting from poor weather earlier in the year.

Cherry growers in the South Okanagan have been picking some varieties for the past two weeks, but are already reporting crop reductions due to late April frosts.

Now, late June rains are offering a new threat as early-ripening varieties become susceptible to splitting from the excessive rain.

The Ministry of Agriculture agrees B.C. cherry farmers have already had a tough year, with a winter freeze in January and a spring frost in April that has affected 40 to 50 per cent of this year’s harvest.

The past few weeks has seen many growers claiming damage for heavy rain and hail as early varieties ripen.

The ministry calculates damages in the industry to total around $16 million, and that number may rise if the weather doesn’t begin to cooperate.

B.C.’s cherry insurance program has seen claims registered for over 90 per cent of the 425 policies insured under the production insurance program.

“You have to have thick skin if you’re a cherry grower,” says B.C. Cherry Association President Sukhpaul Bal, who grows cherries in the Central Okanagan. “In our smaller blocks we’re using tractors with blowers on the back to blow the moisture off the trees after a rain... It’s also 'helicopter season,' as the larger cherry orchard blocks are being handled by aircraft.”

He says this is traditionally the time of year, towards the end of June, when earlier varieties are at risk. Other cherry types that ripen in August, are too green right now to be affected by the rain.

Cherry growers have also been impeded by efforts to spray for mildew as the incessant rain reduces their effectiveness.

“We have to wait for a good day to apply, and it’s only been the last week where there were stretches when it wasn’t too wet,” he says.

He says orchardists have to have spray equipment at the ready to move as soon as there is an opportunity between showers.

“The earlier you get out there, the better chance you have of saving the fruit,” he says.

The cherry crop in the Central Okanagan should be ready around the end of the first week of July.

“We’d like to see an end to the rain now. It’s time to see a good stretch of warm weather,” Bal says.

Unfortunately, according to the latest forecast from Environment Canada, that’s not going to happen right away, with showers expected through all of this coming weekend for the entire Okanagan.

Some of the earliest ripening Okanagan cherries are now appearing at local farmers’ markets.

There should be cherries at all South Okanagan Farmers' Markets.

Kamloops Farmers’ Market manager Greg Unger says there will be cherries for sale on Saturday at the Kamloops market from South Kelowna Fresh Fruit and Summer Farm and from Summer Breeze Farm this weekend.

Kelowna Farmers’ Market spokesperson Francis Callaghan says the Kelowna market will also have cherries from Oliver and Kelowna area growers at this week’s markets.

Vernon Farmers’ Market manager Ingrid Baron says growers from Osoyoos and Lake Country will have Okanagan cherries at the Vernon market this week.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.

News from © iNFOnews, 2020
iNFOnews

  • Popular kelowna News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile