You may see helicopters over local cherry orchards as farmers strive to save their ripening crop.
The BC Cherry Growers Association says torrential downpours have soaked some Okanagan orchards, causing growers to call on helicopters to help dry their crops.
Growers Association president Sukhpaul Bal says hiring the expensive choppers is not taken lightly but rainwater can split the cherries and destroy the crop.
Helicopters are reported to be able to dry an acre of cherries in five minutes and cost growers between $800 and $1400 per hour of flying time.
The association says there is a significant financial impact from the loss of a cherry crop.
The BC cherry industry has an annual value in the neighbourhood of $150 million, according to a press release.
“Growers understand that helicopter noise can be annoying to nearby residents, and they use helicopters only as a last resort,” says Hank Markgraf, grower services manager at BC Tree Fruits. “Orchardists use other means to prevent splitting first, such as the planting of split-resistant cherry varieties, or new varieties that ripen later in the summer when it’s usually dryer.”
Bal says whether growers will turn to helicopter use again this summer, as they did in 2016, depends on the weather in their area.