Orchardists busy after rainfall

The owners of 30 acres of cherry trees in the Naramata area were hard at work Thursday, making sure the fruit didn't split. 

Late in the afternoon a helicopter arrived at the Van Westen orchard to blow water off the trees after the recent rainfall.

"Once they are split, they are ruined," said Jake Van Westen. "So we brought in the helicopter to go over the rows of cherries. The downdraft then blows the water off."

Getting rainfall like this in July is not typical, he added. It is usually June when the rain falls.

At this point in the growing season, it is the later varieties they are most worried about.

The family also has apple trees, but said they did not see any noticeable damage from Wednesday's hail.

Other orchardists along Naramata Road said they had picked their cherries already, but were keeping an eye on their apples.

Glen Lucas, general manager at the BC Fruit Growers' Association, said as of Thursday morning, he had not heard of widespread damage to crops in the south Okanagan, but he doesn't always get information right away.

"With the rain, I would expect some damage to cherry crops in terms of splitting," he said. "But the consumer doesn't see split cherries, they are culled out. It's more that the rain is a headache for the growers. It's an extra cost and extra management."

The worst thing for the cherries is rain followed by intense heat, but fortunately that did not happen on Thursday.

"It causes even more splitting if it gets hot, right after it rains." he said.

Lucas said apricots could also have been impacted by Wednesday's hail. 

"It would cause marks or bruising on the fruit," he said. "But again consumers don't see that damage. It is the grower who has to sort out the damaged fruit."

The Van Westen family takes it all in stride.

"There is always something. We just hope for the best," said Jake Van Westen.

Deborah Pfeiffer



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