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Rainy weather increasing Okanagan cherry growers' workloads

A cherry tree is pictured in a Kaleden orchard on Friday, June 10, 2016. A sudden change in the weather could cause problems in what has been a great season so far for cherry growers in the Okanagan.
June 10, 2016 - 9:00 PM


PENTICTON - It’s been a stellar season for cherry growers in the B.C. interior so far, but a sudden change in the weather is — at the very least — making for extra work for orchardists. At worst there could be crop damage.

Growers don’t appear concerned yet about possible cherry splitting, but if the rainy weather keeps up, it could impact some varieties.

B.C. Cherry Association chair Sukpaul Bal says if cherries are nearly ripe, the fruit absorbs more water than it can handle which causes it to split.

“I know they are harvesting in the South Okanagan, but I haven’t talked to anyone about damage,” he says, noting Central Okanagan cherries are for the most part, three weeks away from harvest.

Bal also says it’s better for cherries to get rain with consistent cool, cloudy weather, although orchardists can apply salt-based sprays to help mitigate water damage. Other methods used to control moisture on the fruit includes operating a blower behind a tractor through the orchard, or hiring a helicopter to blow the excess moisture from the fruit.

“Growing cherries can be quite risky because of all the elements at play. That’s why we strive to get premium dollar for the fruit,” he says, adding he has a block of early ripening cherries in Kelowna he’ll most likely be putting some extra time into over the next few days.

Ron Schneider of Heartachers Farm in Cawston says he doesn’t think the rain is hurting cherries as much as it could if the weather was warmer.

“The real splitting happens when it’s 30 degrees and cold rain hits the fruit,” he says, adding he doesn’t believe there will be any damage to lapins, sweethearts or other later varieties.

“We’ve already picked Chelan and cristalina, we’ll be picking bing and van cherries next week,” he says.

Schneider says the weather isn’t an issue yet, it’s just “really weird” going from 10 degrees above normal last week to 10 degrees below this week.

“It’s back to a normal June, with rain falling at the wrong time, but the pendulum swings in the weather and an increase of hail in the past few years are concerns,” he says. “If you’re growing cherries, buy as much insurance as you can. It’s kind of like going to Las Vegas."

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