It’s been a very poor season for cherries says Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. A colder than usual February resulted in some winterkill, then a spring frost at minus 3°C further damaged blooms. The third blow was unseasonable rain in early July which caused cherries to split.
“Losses were anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent of the cherry crop depending on location and slope in the Okanagan Valley,” says Dhaliwal. “There were 40 per cent splits in the Skeena variety. If that variety smells rain, it splits.”
If growers can afford the $1,000 per hour costs, helicopters are contracted to blow off rain. Or cherry blowers are hitched to the back of tractors which go up and down orchard aisles. However, as Dhaliwal points out, a 70 hp tractor is the minimum needed. And decisions to invest in mitigating the effects of rain are difficult.
“If you’ve invested in one round of helicopters, do you go again in two days’ time,” says Dhaliwal. “Back to back rain events hurt.”
Later-maturing cherry varieties – Sentennial and Staccato – are now being harvested in August through to September. There will be fewer B.C cherry exports this year as a result of climatic conditions – a disappointment given that the Japanese market had just opened in 2019.
“Overall, it’s been a cooler summer,” says Dhaliwal. “We had only two days in July that went above 30°C.”
Source: Grower staff