Market Watch

Long summer caused some problems, but overall it’s been a good year formost crops.


n counterpoint to last year, this year’s growing season got off to a late, slow start, which may be part of the reason much of the fruit is on the small side.

However, cherry growers were happy not to have to deal with the series of rainstorms that made their way through the Okanagan- Similkameen region the previous summer, requiring a constant effort to dry cherries so they wouldn’t split. On the other hand, this year there was virtually no rain for nearly three months and it was hot.

It was so hot, that agrologist Carl Withler, field specialist for tree fruits and grapes for the provincial agriculture ministry, figures the intense smoke caused by massive wildfires throughout the province probably helped in cooling temperatures down a bit and preventing plants from shutting down.

Otherwise it was a good growing season with a high volume of cherries, he notes. The one negative note was that some growers had concerns about smoke taint in grapes, he adds.

The apricot harvest was down, likely due to some winter damage from a few cold nights, he says, but overall there wasn’t much damage. BCTF Co-op Grower Services Manager Hank Markgraf agrees, and adds there was not only no rain for weeks on end, but there was almost no hail in the region this year. However, that hot, dry weather meant irrigation had trouble keeping up, which he figures had an impact on fruit quality.

And, because it was so warm, there were problems this year with powdery mildew.

On the other hand, likely due to cold winter temperatures and possibly the hot summer, there were few complaints about Spotted Wing Drosophila.

4 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall-Winter 2017

By Judie Steeves Minimal harm from heat and smoke

B.C.’s big crops were matched by another record crop in adjacent Washington State, where growers also struggled with small fruit size, Markgraf reports.

Overall, he figures there’s a 10 per cent larger crop of apples here, but size is a box size down, with larger fruit in the northern part of the region than in the south. Harvest times were weeks later than last year, which was particularly early, and about a week later than normal, so apple growers were challenged to keep all varieties picked through the shorter harvest season window.

Prices remain reasonable for both apples and cherries, despite the fact that another record crop of apples was harvested in Washington, but crops in eastern Canada were down a bit this year, which will make it easier to market the big apple crop, he figures.

Markgraf reminds growers that

Nov. 15 is the deadline to submit applications for the 2018 replant program. As well, he advises growers to

make sure they put the orchard to bed well, with a nutrient spray and adequate water after this hot, dry summer.

A fall feeding for all crops is beneficial for a good spring start to the growing season, he adds. BCTFC CEO Stan Swales also advises growers it’s particularly important they educate themselves about the market and market conditions, so that influences how they grow.

“The biggest difference between the independents and the co-ops is that grower-members of a co-op seem to want the co-op to make something magical of the fruit that comes in. They’re not responsive to the market. “Independents look to the long- term in terms of what they grow.”

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