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Good crop forecast
Following a mild winter, growers of both grapes and tree fruits in the Okanagan are expecting a good crop this year, although there are some complaints about the spring being late and weather uncertain from day to day.
Winter injury is not predicted in any local fruits this year, as there was neither a sharp drop in temperatures early in fall, or extreme cold at any point during the past winter.
Although things are moving a little later than normal, they’re earlier than last year, according to Jim Campbell, the agriculture ministry’s grape and tree fruit specialist.
Apricots have already bloomed and are in the petal fall stage in the southern part of the valley, and bloom has begun in the rest of the valley.
That’s a stage when they’re sensitive to frost, but no frost is forecast in the coming week, and this late in April it’s becoming less and less likely there’ll be a killing frost, he noted. Normally, really damaging frost occurs in early April, he said.
Cherries are sensitive when they’re in bloom as well, and they’ve just begun to bloom in the southern part of the valley.
They’ll follow peaches, with plums and pears overlapping their bloom times.
Apples are next, and they begin to be susceptible to frost damage at the tight cluster bud stage, he explained.
“I haven’t heard of any winter injury, and I don’t think it dropped lower than -15 C this winter, so I expect there could be good tree fruit and grape crops,” he added.
All in all, he feels it’s setting up for a good crop this year, although it depends on adequate bee flight during bloom, which depends on warm and dry weather.
In cherries, he said he doesn’t expect a snowball bloom, but a good bloom is expected, and apples could have a good crop this year as well.
Of course, no one wants too good a set or fruit size will drop, he added.
Long-time Kelowna grape grower Doug Sperling was hopeful warmer weather would move in so spring would not be as late as last year.
“We can’t make up for lost days in the fall when the days are short, so it would be nice to get some warm days early on,” he commented. With fresh snow still falling on the hills around the Okanagan during April, he was eager to see the end of it and the beginning of buds swelling and spring.
Last year’s grape crop was way down from normal, both in table grapes and wine grapes, he reported. “It’s tough with a short year to get the flavours you want,” he explained.
However, Leo Gebert of St. Hubertus Estate Winery was more optimistic, and said he felt his vineyard is ready to explode into growth.
It has been a cold spring for the crew tying canes, but last year was a late spring and it was still a good year in the end, he said.
Experienced growers dropped crop and removed leaves in the fruit zone in order to get as much heat as possible to the clusters, and allow them the energy to mature in a shorter season.
New growers may not have taken such precautions early on, and may have suffered as a result, he noted.