The recent heatwave in the BC Interior will not impact the availability or quality of apples, cherries or other fruit grown in the Okanagan Valley. Temperatures reached a daily record of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on July 13 at the town of Osoyoos in the South Okanagan, and the temperature there has been over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) for five days in the past week.
At these high temperatures, orchard operations are impacted, and the following adjustments are made:
– The fruit growth at hot temperatures will slow or stop, then resume when temperatures drop to normal temperatures for the season.
– Picking of fruit (cherry season has opened) is done before noon, when temperatures are cooler.
– Fruit is chilled as quickly as possible after picking.
– Fruit ripens more quickly as temperatures rise. The amount of time available to harvest the fruit is shorter, which makes getting the crop off the trees more time sensitive.
“The summer heat will add an extra challenge to getting crops off in good shape, but we want to assure our loyal customers that there is adequate supply of cherries from now through to August and even into September” said Fred Steele, President of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. The Okanagan is the only commercial apricot growing area in Canada, with apricot availability now for the next few weeks. The various varieties of peaches start now and will be available into September.
“We are looking for local fruit pickers to get the crop off the trees faster than usual. Interested people may call Ron Forrest, the facilitator of the BCFGA Labour Project, at 250-859-7503. Right now, we have one order for 50 pickers that is unfilled and by next week the tree fruit industry will need more workers,” said Steele. The BCFGA is asking workers who are camping to be aware of campfire bans.
The apple season starts with early season varieties in mid August. “The Sunrise apple variety is an early variety developed at the Summerland Research Station here in the Okanagan. We will be sampling Sunrise at the 115th Interior Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong, August 27 – 31, 2014,” commented Steele. The regular apple season then starts in September, and we are hoping for more moderate weather then, but the long range forecast is calling for more heat.
The BCFGA is an agriculture association with a membership of 550 commercial tree fruit growers in BC. It celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2014.