It hasn’t started off as a stellar season for either the tree fruit or grape industries, with cool weather continuing to set crops back by as much as two weeks in the valley.
However, this spring’s frosty nights have caused only spotty damage to vulnerable blossoms, reports Jim Campbell, the agriculture ministry’s tree fruit and grape specialist.
Cold days have reduced bee flight, though, so there are concerns about adequate pollination, particularly in soft fruits like cherries and apricots.
With such a late start, Campbell says grape and apple growers are concerned about getting the harvest off before the first frost of fall.
Apple growers can even find it an advantage because the first cold weather in fall produces high-coloured fruit, which is more desirable in the marketplace, whereas if it ripens earlier, warmer temperatures don’t produce good colour.
Grape growers, on the other hand, hope to increase the sugars in the fruit at the end of the year with warm weather at harvest, and the later the harvest, the less likely the weather will be warm.
Farmers are hopeful the cool spring will be followed by a hot summer so that fruit will catch up over the coming months.
“Last year we had a cool spring but with the warm summer, most fruit caught up by harvest,” Campbell commented.
He’s predicting some short crops in the apricots and cherries, as there was last year, but the forecast is for a large grape crop this year after two years of short crops.
So far, he hasn’t heard of much actual damage from frost this spring, but some growers had to use their wind machines to prevent frost from sinking into low pockets and causing losses.
Environment Canada yesterday released its probability forecasts for June, which included a prediction that temperatures will remain on the low side this week, but overall are 50 per cent likely to be above normal for the second week in the month.
While rain is forecast for this week, the weather is expected to dry up in the second week of the month.
Overall, precipitation for the month is expected to be normal for June, and June is traditionally the wettest month of the year in the Okanagan.