Delayed rain, cherry woes

Alanna Kelly

Choppers have been circling above cherry orchards and Okanagan Valley homes relentlessly, but relief is on the way.

With cherry season upon us, the experts say delayed rain caused a different headache this season. 

“It has been a challenging start to the season for sure,” said Chris Pollock, marketing manager at BC Tree Fruits.

Environment Canada meteorologists say typically, June is the month with the most precipitation but rainfall was delayed and pushed into the first week of July. 

“This June we only received about half the amount of precipitation that we normally get in the Okanagan,” said Environment Canada meteorologist, Bobby Sekhon. “That is because the cold low season that normally brings the rain to the Okanagan was delayed by two to three weeks.” 

Pollock says rain can cause cherries to split.

“If you get really high powerful rain that comes in it can cause little divots in the fruit,” he said. “What you really want to try to avoid is the water soaking into the fruit and when the heat comes it causes the cherries to expand.”

Cherry growers spend a lot of money to hire helicopters to circle over their orchards to blow the water off. 

“They don’t want that water sitting on the cherries at all,” he said. “It’s the easiest and fastest way to do it, probably most expensive but at the end of the day if you are getting a really good return for the fruit and the quality, it is worth it.”

Scorching heat forces growers to go out and pick early in the morning, sometimes even at 4 a.m. 

Pollock said this year there are fewer cherries, but the quality is higher. 

“The fruit we have been able to get off the trees has been really good, we’ve got a really good size, good sugar levels,” said Pollock. 

Most of the expected precipitation has finished for July, according to Sekhon, which means less activity from the choppers. 

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