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Market Watch


Tonnage expected to increase, but care needed to avoid the stresses that occurred last summer.


T


his year marks the second in a row of record-breaking hot spring weather that actually began before winter was even over — on the calendar.


And, growers have been advised not to pay much attention to their calendars this year; not when it comes to spraying or harvesting, because again, Mother Nature has shoved the growth cycle off its normal path and is introducing farmers to some new dates for all the regular orchard and vineyard chores. Pay attention or you’ll pay the


price.


Research scientist Denise Neilsen of the Summerland Research and Development Centre has been studying climate in the Okanagan for many years and notes that last year was a very stressful growing season for trees, fruit and for tree fruit growers and winemakers. Since the 1980s, she reports that growing-degree days have increased at Summerland and there are now more frost-free days. As well, there is a phenomenal decrease in the number of very cold days in winter, days with temperatures lower than -20 C. In fact, there have been none since 1996, she reports.


At the other end, there has been an increase in the number of hot days, over 35 C, since the mid 1990s and that can reduce fruit size and cause damage to fruit.


High temperatures at the end of the growing season also make it difficult to get good colour on apples, she notes.


In 2015, warm temperatures began early in spring and they remained higher throughout the season, making bloom and harvest earlier for both cherries and apples.


As well, there was an early drought which can impact fruit development early on in the season for both cherries and apples.


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016 5


By Judie Steeves Spring heat brings another jump-start Not enough water was being


supplied at important periods in the development of fruit, she says. This year there was more soil moisture as growth began in the spring, so she feels there shouldn’t be the issues with early water stress. However, the first cherries were being picked even ahead of 2015 this year, and the season was compressed.


With fruit from new plantings of cherries coming into production this year, B.C. Tree Fruits anticipates a record year for cherries, says grower services manager Hank Markgraf, and it’s expected to be a moderately- heavy crop as well.


Cherry growers who normally work steady through August might have the month off this year, he feels.


All soft fruit crops look good, Markgraf says, with a larger peach crop as well.


But, apple growers had better have


pickers lined up to harvest a few weeks earlier than normal again this year, he warns.


And, they had better be ruthless in


their efforts at thinning, he says, adding that sun-blocking sprays might also be important, if the summer’s weather turns out to be as hot as forecast.


Prices for all fruits are expected to be good again this year, with all apples sold out before the new season crop came into the market and prices good last year. An overall increase in tonnage of 20 to 25 per cent is forecast by the BCTF Co-op this year.


Provincial agriculture ministry tree fruit specialist Carl Withler warns growers there could be some challenges with labour this year, due to the early, collapsed season and large crops.


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