Vernon – Depending on where you live in the Okanagan, you may have noticed fruit trees are blooming early this year. It’s a beautiful sight of spring, but the warm weather could cause problems for Okanagan orchardists especially if frosty weather returns.
Just like last year another early spring means things are ahead of schedule on Okanagan orchards.
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“The apricots and the peaches are in blossom now, which is very early,” says Leah Campbell with Davison Orchards. “Apples are less than two weeks away, which is much earlier than usual.”
However, an early start to the growing season means an increased risk for growers. Trees that have bloomed are more susceptible to damage from potential frosts.
“Frost can either wipe out the full blooms so you will have a loss of crop or you can have damage to the apples,” explains David Dobernigg, owner of the BX Press Cidery and Orchard.
“We usually hope that by May 1 we are out of the woods for frost. We are so far away from that that right now we are just sitting on the edge of our seat hoping that these blossoms make it through the next few weeks,” says Campbell.
Fred Steele, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, says a frost would mean a smaller crop. That could be helpful or harmful to farmers depending on when the frost happens and how severe it is.
“If that frost comes at the right time and it is not too severe, it could help you do a thinning job. It comes at the wrong time and the temperatures are much lower than of course you lose a substantial portion of your crop,” says Steele.
“In the middle of [Ontario’s] blossom in 2012 temperatures dropped sub-zero and they had snow. They lost about 85 per cent of their crop.”
Orchardists have learned to live with uncertainty and are taking the situation in stride.
“There is crop insurance so there is a safety net for us if it wipes out the crop,” says Dobernigg.
“We’ve also started a small on-farm cidery so if [the crop] is scarred we have the ability to use some of that fruit for our own purposes.”