BC fruit growers stand to be hit the hardest by the current heat wave, with dozens filing notices of claim regarding crop losses.
“BC berry growers and tree fruit growers are experiencing significant losses as a result of the June heat wave,” the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries told Country Life in BC.
Production insurance staff had received 50 notices of loss from Lower Mainland berry growers as of June 29 and 31 from tree fruit growers in the Okanagan.
“Overall raspberries are the worst and blueberries are second,” says David Mutz of Berry Haven Farm in Abbotsford. “You can literally grab some of the [raspberry plant] leaves and they crumble. They’re just cooked. It’s like you took a torch to it.”
Mutz says primocanes are burnt and twisted. It’s unknown how the damage will impact next year’s crops, but it’s compounding the lingering effects of winter damage suffered over the past two years.
Raspberry Industry Development Council vice-chair Paul Sidhu says it’s “demoralizing” for growers. The industry has been trying to rebuild with the help of a replant program the province established, but his fruit is sunburned and drying up.
“It’s hitting all the raspberry growers,” he says. “We got the replant program, that’s a good thing. We’re trying to make a comeback, then this happens.”
The temperatures mean 2021’s crop will be well below the council’s estimate of 11.3 million pounds.
Blueberries, already at critical risk from scorch virus this year, will also see lower production.
Jack Bates of Tecarte Farms in Delta says some of his berries have shrivelled from the heat. Others aren’t colouring up. While he’s optimistic that late-season varieties may be minimally impacted, the early-season heat could be a knock-out punch for this year’s crop.
“Blueberries, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got early season or late,” says Mutz. “The berries all have some kind of damage on them.”
Apple growers in both the Lower Mainland and Okanagan have also seen damage. One veteran consultant says the intense sunlight and heat has scorched leaves and scalded fruit. Some growers report symptoms similar to watercore, despite it being too early in the season for that phenomenon. The damage has been attributed to the suddeness and severity of the high temperatures.
Growers such as Willow View Farms on Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford showered its trees with plenty of water in the hope evaporative cooling would protect most vulnerable trees as temperatures approached 43° C on Monday.
While healthy, well-watered trees are generally more resilient during extremes of temperature, heat can finish off diseased plantings.