A cold, rainy June was challenging for Abbotsford berry producers, but a warmer, drier July has helped, says a berry specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Rain in the summer is a mixed blessing. Some farmers really want it but for some crops it’s not welcome,” said Mark Sweeney.
Where it’s not welcome is with soft, perishable fruit like raspberries. Farmers will prefer to use their own irrigation rather than rely on the offerings from the heavens.
“Coming from the skies it can actually cause some quality issues,” he said, adding one downpour in July negatively affected the crop of raspberries.
June had been unseasonably cold for Abbotsford, with temperatures falling two degrees below normal throughout the first half of the month. But July saw an average high of 22.6 Celsius, with minimums of 12.5 Celsius, and a mean temperature of 17.5, exactly normal for the time of year.
“So the high was a little bit cooler, but the overnight lows were warmer, which equalled out,” said David Jones, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.
Rainfall for July in Abbotsford was measured at 38.3 mm, with a seasonal norm of 50.2 mm.
Chilliwack was much rainier than Abbotsford during July, breaking one-day precipitation records on the 20th and 23rd.
“The Fraser Valley is funny. The eastern part, especially Hope, with Chilliwack, can really rain longer than Abbotsford. Usually it ends faster in Abbotsford and it’ll linger for another day or two in the east,” said Jones.
But even a short five-hour downpour can increase the incidence of soft, mushy fruit or mould, said Sweeney.
Blueberries fared much better, not only because they’re a more durable and resilient fruit, but because the crop was much younger than the raspberries when the rains hit.
“They’re actually doing very well right now. Quality is exceptional, yields are good, and we’re into the peak of the harvest right now with lots of volume coming off,” Sweeney said.
The early strawberries, known as June-bearing in the industry, are finished, but the ever-bearing varieties continue to grow throughout the summer in smaller volumes.
“They like this weather. This is actually pretty favourable weather for all of our berry crops, having dry, moderate temperatures.”
Sweeney said in summary it’s been a good blueberry season, a poor raspberry season, and a medium strawberry season.