In the US northwest, it’s been a wet start to the summer; for Okanagan cherry farmers growing earlier varieties, it's not been good news. The skeena is a popular early variety cherry grown in the Okanagan and it tends to be sensitive to rain and consequently splitting.
“Some of the earlier, more susceptible varieties I have quite a bit of damage,” said Sukhpaul Bal, from Hillcrest. “Upwards of 50 percent.”
However, for most seasoned cherry farmers, this type of season isn’t something new. “2016 was very wet, too,” said Bal, recalling a similar pattern of multiple days of rain in a row, with rain showers throughout the day. Unfortunately, with this much rain, it’s not as easy as just drying off the tree.
“The root system will draw a lot of that water and send that to the fruit too and cause it to split,” explains Bal, “That’s where you get into a lot of trouble, is a heavy downpour in a short period of time, it just overwhelms the tree, it’s taking in too much water too fast.”
Although saving these crops is a full-time job for farmers, when it comes to Skeena variety, the risk may be worth the reward, as not only is Skeena arguably to tastiest cherry, but there’s practicality behind growing earlier varieties as well. Because each variety ripens at different times in the season, timing is everything.