Cherry growers in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys hope a run of frosty temperatures since April 11 won’t do significant damage to this year’s crop.
“I’m just getting started checking grower’s blocks,” says Seradaye Lean, field service and quality control advisor for Consolidated Fruit Packers Ltd. in Kelowna. “There is a range of damage within the Oliver/Osoyoos area.”
As cherry buds mature and approach bloom, they become more susceptible to damage. Buds that are just beginning to show green may handle a temp of -10° Celsius while flowers that have already burst out on early ripening varieties around Osoyoos can be harmed at -2° C.
“I am seeing flower damage in the south Okanagan, but it will take me a couple of days to check through Keremeos, Summerland and up to Kelowna,” she says. “One block may have 50% damage, while another block will have no damage at all.”
The variety, the condition of the tree, the slope of the block, whether there has been wind and the actual air temperature are all variables that play a role in determining whether or not a specific tree will be hit hard.
Cold temperatures are not necessarily bad news.
“We have a huge bud set this year,” says Lean.
If all of those buds pollinate and produce fruit, the result will be a large crop of small cherries that are worth less in the marketplace. Mild frost damage can help thin the crop load, she explains.
“Some growers could be heavily impacted and lose a lot of crop, some may not be frost affected at all and face that big crop load, and some might have it just right, where the frost has done some thinning for them and they have a balanced crop load,” she says.