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B.C. cherry growers predict tough 2024 in wake of damaging polar vortex

Cherry growers in B.C. are expecting a tough 2024 following frigid weather in early January.

The B.C. Cherry Association (BCCA) says last month’s extremely cold temperatures led to a membership meeting last week to discuss the impact of last month’s polar vortex.

“This is the most challenging season our growers have seen in our lifetime,” association president Sukhpaul Bal said in a statement on Monday.

According to the BCCA, cherry trees didn’t have time to acclimate when temperatures quickly changed over a few days, plunging from well above freezing to as low as -30 C in some areas.

“Cherry trees had no time to develop the necessary winter hardiness, and fruit buds were unable to cope with the sudden drop in temperature in such a short period of time,” said the BCCA.

As a result, damage to a large percentage of developing cherry buds occurred.

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The BCCA says in the wake of the polar vortex, farmers began collecting cuttings from their orchards to evaluate the damage.

“The analysis of the buds on those branches is almost complete, and it is already clear that this was a climate-change event that will impact the cherry crop more than any the industry has experienced before,” said the BCCA.

Three years ago, the association also noted that orchardists took a hit when the heat dome scorched the province, with temperatures reaching upwards of 47 C.

“Growers had to face enormous challenges and crop losses resulting from that, but the BCCA can confirm that 2024 will be much worse in terms of lost crops. And the effect may extend beyond the upcoming season.”

The association says it plans to meet with provincial and federal government officials in the coming weeks to discuss the situation that the industry is facing.

“It is too early to say what the impact will be on crops in 2025 and beyond,” said Bal, “but it is certainly possible that trees in the worst-hit areas have suffered long-lasting damage with a recovery that could take years.”

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