Apple pickers may be dodging raindrops, but this year’s harvest is at least enjoying a warmer, more humid early fall.
The Central Okanagan usually sees 30 millimetres of rainfall by this point in September, yet only 20 millimetres have fallen.
“The temperatures are higher, especially at night, and there is more humidity in the air,” said Doug Lundquist, Environment Canada meteorologist.
Rain is not quite the dire plague to apple crops as it is to cherries, and other soft fruit, but it nonetheless can damage a more sensitive varietal, like McIntosh, and it can create some hazardous work conditions as pickers slide around on ladders in the mud.
“It’s miserable picking in wet conditions and you notice that if you’re picking fruit at all in the hours ahead of rain or wind, you’ll actually feel the fruit tightening on the tree,” said Fred Steele, president of BC Fruit Growers’ Association and an apple orchardist based in Glenmore.
This can lead to picking off fruit spurs as the pickers have to pull harder. The spur is a short branch where the apple tree flowers and sets its fruit, so ripping the spur off means damaging next year’s crop.
Showery conditions are expected to continue until the weekend, clear up for Saturday and Sunday and return again next week. But thus far, the apple season appears to be going well.
“I don’t hear a lot in September because everybody’s working like mad fools, but what I am hearing is they’ve got size, they’ve got colour, if they didn’t get hail, I think they should do fairly well,” said Steele.
The apple harvest begins in the south at the end of August and will continue until the last Pink Ladies are picked at the end of October.
Farmers have been hit with two rounds of spot hail—a huge issue for those hit, but a minimal amount compared to the destructive storms of 2013.
At the moment, workers are out harvesting gala apples, a multi-pick apple that has sent some orchardists, like Julie Sardinha, out to the field for three rounds of harvest.