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Market Watch


Ideal pollination conditions followed by stretch of hot weather expected to result in good-sized fruit.


A


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 the numbers of fruit in order to harvest the best-sized to profit from the good crop.


A solid foundation for a large crop of good-sized fruit was laid this spring with almost ideal conditions at blossom-time throughout the valley, followed by very warm, dry days that encouraged the bees to do their job efficiently.


The record-breaking heat which followed helped to produce good cell division which is critical to achieving size in fruit when it comes to harvest, explains Hank Markgraf, grower services manager with the B.C. Tree Fruits Co-operative, where he has worked for the past 30 years. “Tree fruits are happy with good pollination and good conditions for cell division, so I expect we’ll see good fruit size,” he comments. The hot spell even helped apple growers who needed that heat for chemical thinners to work better, he adds.


However, it meant growers were really scrambling to spray as blossom- time rushed from pink to petal-fall in just four days this year, he notes. Growers put in some long spray days and had to hurry to keep pace with weather conditions and the sudden spurt of growth.


The sudden early heat, following a late, cool spring, caused a rush of growth everywhere, but it lifted growers’ spirits as well.


Markgraf said he saw actual fruitlets early; they developed fast from blossoms this year.


Plants overwintered well, with no hard freezes and lots of snow cover to protect plants. The only down-side was


6 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2018


By Judie Steeves Spring brought promise of large crop


some mouse damage due to the heavy snow.


That heavy snow-pack caused some damage to orchards in the Keremeos area where flooding from the Similkameen River left a mess for growers to deal with. But, Markgraf was hopeful the short duration meant there was no root damage from it. This year’s crops of both apples and cherries are forecast to be large, and of good size, unlike last year when a cool, wet, late spring meant poor cell division, which determines size. The Ambrosia and Royal Gala apples remaining in storage this year are also on the weak side because of that cool spring last year, notes Markgraf. In the southern part of the Okanagan Valley, the early varieties of cherries bloomed before the weather warmed up, so crop loads are expected to be lighter, but that could also help to increase fruit size, which would be a bonus.


Lapins and later varieties in the South Okanagan have set heavier, as have crops in the northern half of the valley, where a larger crop than last year is expected.


Orchardists in Washington State are predicting a similarly large crop this year, with figures like 22-24 million


cartons of cherries expected, and assumptions are that the apple crop is looking good too, says Markgraf. Locally, the B.C. Tree Fruits Co-op has estimated a crop of 12 million pounds of cherries, a similar estimate to what was made last year. However, due to smaller fruit, the harvest was closer to 10 million in 2017. There are a number of independent packers, so the BCTF crop estimates don’t reflect a valley total.


In terms of apples, Markgraf figures that crop will also be up over last year. He notes that if this is a hot summer, there’s lots of stored irrigation water in the hills around the valley to deal with it. As well, he says, we are learning more about dealing with sunburn on fruit. He did advise growers who have diversified and now grow both apples and cherries, to be sure and thin apples before they begin harvesting cherries. “Otherwise, it won’t get done because you’ll be too busy. And, after cherry harvest, it will be too late to have the required impact on fruit size,” he comments.


While lots can still happen over summer to change the outlook, this year’s crop does have a strong foundation from spring weather to build on.


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