Winter weather delivers another blow to an already challenged B.C. cherry crop

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A fruit tree orchard can be viable for many, many years, but it also means that establishing an orchard requires significant investment. That investment should pay off in the years of harvesting the fruit, but as many in B.C. are struggling with, severe weather can cut yield potential weeks before the trees begin their spring growth.

Sukhpaul Bal’s orchard Hillcrest Cherries has faced significant weather-related challenges in several of the last five years. Based in the Okanagan Valley, the orchard has weathered a heat dome that ruined fruit in 2022, severe wildfires in 2023, and a cold snap now in 2024 which has likely cut 90 per cent of the yield potential for the summer crop.

Bal explains that because orchards are a long-term crop, weather disasters can eliminate an entire year of production with no real option for diversifying or replacing the crop with something else. What’s more, the current risk management programs, he says, are failing to address the increased frequency and intensity of weather disasters.

The 2024 cherry crop for his area is already a failure, Bal says. The question now is what can be done in the long-term to help cherry growers adapt to a more volatile climate.

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