Heatwave wreaks havoc on Similkameen Valley

Fruit growers felt the heat and wineries weren't far behind

  • Jul. 15, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The recent heatwave that rocked the province spared no section or valley from the crushing temperatures.

In the Similkameen, although there is no longer an Environment Canada station to record the temperature for posterity, the fruit growers and wineries of Keremeos felt the heat.

It is a tale of two fields. For those whose trade is in fruit, the blast of heat was harsh and damaging, but for wineries, the timing was just right.

“Depending on what you’re growing, in this valley particularly, any farm experienced some loss, depending on what is growing,” said Quentin Parsons of Parsons Farm Market.

Parsons lost around 20 per cent of their cherry crop, and the sun blasted and blistered countless other fruit.

The wineries on the other hand, escaped the worst of the impact by the skin of the grapes. That is to say, the heatwave happened at just the right time for the fruit on the vines to survive, according to Charlie Baessler, managing partner of Corcelettes Estate Winery.

“If it had been a month later, it would have been catastrophic,” he said. “I look over the fencelines and I feel a lot for our tree growers in the region, who have suffered a lot more. Right now our vines are at the point where they’re at their toughest when it comes to weathering a heatwave like this.”

Grapes are still small and growing and can handle the heat.

Even though the majority of the vines survived the heat, Baessler noted that many of the younger vines and recent plants had taken it worse and most likely wouldn’t be fruitful for the year.

It’s still a far better sight than what many of the orchardists saw over the week of intense heat.

Apricots, plums and apples became sun scalded due to the intense heat, wherever they weren’t shaded by leaves or branches, but even the shade wasn’t enough to protect all of the produce currently growing.

The cherries saw the most damage from the heatwave, both directly and indirectly with temperatures letting up only slightly during the evenings.

“Some we lost to sun scalding, but a lot of them just seemed to cook on the trees,” said Parsons.

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