Market Watch

Bud health and pollination were good, leading to forecasts of very large cherry and apple crops.


n excess of water this spring didn’t prevent fruit trees from producing a huge bloom, or good pollination of those flowers, so growers now have to deal with reducing those numbers of fruit in order to harvest the best-sized fruit to profit from the good crop.

Despite wet and cool conditions during a huge cherry bloom, pollination was good, and the same was true of apple blossom time. Growers have been using every tool in the toolbox to reduce the quantity of apples on the trees in order to grow good- sized fruit so they can optimize prices, notes Hank Markgraf, grower services manager for the B.C. Tree Fruits Co- operative.

However, Mother Nature came through again, bringing on a sudden spring spurt of very warm May weather to maximize cell development at a critical time, providing a good foundation for creation of a large crop of large fruit this year. He notes most orchards

overwintered well, despite the long winter and late, wet spring. A couple of cold snaps during the winter had him wondering if there might be some damage, but mostly, he hasn’t seen any harm, except perhaps on very rocky, gravelly soils. Even most new plantings survived winter in good shape. Bloom was 21-25 days later than last year, but that was an exceptionally early year, and on average, it was only about four or five days behind normal, reports Markgraf. Although it was cool, there wasn’t frosty weather, so bud health and pollination were good, leading to forecasts of very large crops of both cherries and apples this year. The later spring this year will result in a more-normal harvest time, which is good, he comments, particularly as the bloom of different varieties was

6 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2017

By Judie Steeves Cold,wet weather wasn’t harmful

well-spaced this year, meaning harvest will be spaced out too, instead of everything ripening at once. That 10-12-day separation allows packing facilities to handle fruit in a more orderly fashion too, he adds. With apples, a later harvest this year also means varieties such as Gala will have a better opportunity to colour up under the influence of some cooler fall weather instead of being harvested while it’s still warm through the summer nights.

All the rain this spring meant growers had to keep busy to control scab on apples and powdery mildew on cherries, he says.

There was nothing ‘scary’ with insect pests early in the year, although apple clearwing moth is now creeping into Kelowna and Winfield, so growers need to keep on top of that.

With most storage apples having been sold, the decks have been cleared for the new crop, which helps ensure prices remain good.

Last year’s harvest saw a large crop of apples, both in B.C. and in adjacent Washington State, and predictions are that this year will be similar, or larger, with Washington forecasting a 155 million box crop, near its record. B.C. expecting a 10 per cent increase over

last year’s crop. Markgraf said they expect to pack 12 million pounds of cherries at the co-op this year, compared to the eight million last year. However, the 2016 crop was also expected to be 12 million, until early summer rains decimated it. BCTFC marketing manager Chris Pollock notes that apple prices this past year have maintained a good level across the board, although down an average of five per cent a carton from the previous year, or $30 average a carton for the year. But it was a larger crop than the previous year by about 25 per cent too, so he doesn’t expect most farmers will notice the slight decrease in prices.

He expects there will be

opportunities to export cherries to U.S. and overseas markets again this year, with a forecast of 60 per cent domestic sales and 40 per cent export to areas like China and the U.S.

Pollock is confident about prices for the coming year, but says it will depend on the volume to start, and warns there will be lots coming from Washington State first.

Markgraf’s focus for growers this year is on attaining good-sized fruit. “Good size pays,” he advises.

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