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British Columbia - Canada

Helicopters being used to fight frost on this year's cherry crop

Okanagan residents are familiar with helicopters using their blades to clear off rain and dew build-up on cherries as they get closer to harvest, but perhaps have not heard that cherry farmers also use helicopters in the spring to ward off frost.

A local helicopter operator told Castanet that during some springs, in late March and early April, frost can damage cherry tree buds.  Once daytime temperatures begin to rise some cherry buds begin to flower, but if cooler temperatures follow the next day, especially in the morning, frost can kill the buds, damage the tree and set the growing process back.

High temperatures for Kelowna are expected to be in the mid-teens this week but the forecast for Wednesday morning is calling for a low of -1 C.

"The coldest part of the day is in the morning, that's why it's important to circulate the air in the morning," said the helicopter pilot, who has been flying in Kelowna for the past 10 years.

Hank Markgraf is a Kelowna orchardist and a board member with the International Tree Fruit Association and an orchardist, he says the technique has been used for the past 20 or 30 years in New Zealand and Australia but not so much here in the Okanagan.

"We haven't used (helicopters) them that much but we haven't had that many cold springs either. This is definitely a colder one for us for sure, it's been two or three years since we've had a cool spring like this one," says Markgraf.

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