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Damaged buds found on grape vines, fruit trees after record-breaking cold temperatures sweep Creston Valley

Red Bird Winery suffers substantial losses, local orchardists seek data on fruit tree damage
Orchards in Creston Valley are still in the process of assessing fruit trees to determine the extent of the damage from the recent record-breaking cold snap. Above is a picture of a frosty Creston orchard, taken during the freeze in mid-January (Picture by Kasha Ferguson)

A record-breaking cold snap that pushed its way through Creston Valley a few weeks ago has led to substantial losses at a local vineyard and has left orchardists uncertain about the state of their fruit.

The cold weather system brought temperatures as low as -27.2 degrees Celsius and broke records for three days in a row. Rémi Cardinal, owner of Red Bird Winery, said the frigid weather caused buds on his grape plants to freeze.

“So far it’s not looking good,” he said. “When you cut the buds in half, it’s brown, so they’re dead. They’re frozen solid. They didn’t survive the cold snap.”

Cardinal, who checked all his grapes after the onslaught of cold, estimated that bud mortality is as high as 90 per cent.

“In the summer time, there’s going to be some green but there won’t be any fruit,” he said. “… I’m not expecting any grapes at all this year.”

From Jan. 12 to 14, Creston’s temperature ranged from -22.7 and -27.2, which, according to Environment Canada, broke records previously set in January 1937 and January 1950.

Orchardists, meanwhile, are still determining the extent of the damage. Flamenco, Wloka and Faraman Farms mentioned that they still needed to complete a full assessment of their fruit trees before releasing any definitive numbers.

“There’s definitely bud damage that we can see,” said Frank Wloka about his own farm. “I think we had adequate snow coverage so we likely won’t see a lot of root damage, particularly on the more mature trees. Smaller trees may not have fared as well.”

“We know there’s some serious stuff out there, we just don’t know how serious,” he added.

Wloka said he plans to meet with an agronomist in the coming weeks, who will help determine what state his trees are in.

This is the second year Red Bird has suffered losses due to cold weather and Cardinal said this has prompted staff to begin making cider.

The winery has over 4,000 litres of apple and pear cider that will go to market this year, which Cardinal noted would help them to keep their shelves fully stocked while they conserve their wine.

Cardinal said apple trees can withstand cold up to -28 degrees Celsius and pear trees up to -30, which makes them more likely to survive extreme dips in winter weather.

He mentioned that he is the process to trying to get more help from the government, given that this is an issue that has been ongoing for the last two winters.

“It happened last year, it happened this year. Hopefully, it’s not going to be something that happens every year now,” he said.

About the Author: Gillian Francis

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