Good Fruit Grower

April 15

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Page 8 of 55 GOOD FRUIT GROWER APRIL 15, 2014 9 F ruit growers in British Columbia, Canada, may still stand tall as leaders in high-density orchard systems, but they can only wonder at the enormity of the Washington apple industry across their southern border. While Washington growers continue to expand their acreage, many B.C. growers are landlocked and disenchanted by the high costs of apple production coupled with variable returns. In the last 25 years, the area planted to apples in British Columbia has shrunk from 22,000 acres to 8,420 acres today. B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative, which handles most of the province's wholesale apples, packs about 4 million boxes annually. During the same period, Washington apple growers have increased their output from 78 million to 129 million packed boxes and are bracing themselves for a 150-million-box crop in the not-too-distant future. During the International Fruit Tree Association's annual confer- ence in Kelowna, British Columbia, in February, participants visited local growers, among them Jamie Kidston of Constream, near Vernon. Three years ago, Kidston retired and sold the orchard, which his grandfather had established in 1904. His father took over the operation in the 1920s. Kidston, a geo- logical engineer, worked on a number of dam projects in British Columbia, Greece, Thailand, and the Philippines, before returning to the 40-acre orchard in 1977 when his father retired. Most of the trees were planted 20 or 15 feet apart. Kidston started planting blocks more densely and in the early 1980s attended meetings of the International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association (as it was then known) in other growing regions in the eastern United States. "That's where I saw some of those dwarfi ng orchards for the fi rst time," Kidston recalled. "It was a mind changer." Other B.C. growers were also amazed to see what was possible. They took trips to Europe, where the intensive orchard concept techniques were more advanced. At home, they tried slender spindles, V-shaped trellis systems, and double rows, but the trees would stall because of a lack of vigor. They fi nally found that trees on Malling 9 rootstocks trained to a super-spindle system, with a couple of thousand trees per acre, would fi ll the space and generate early yields. Kidston said adoption of the super spindle coincided with the advent of the Gala apple in North America. "Not only did we have a better planting system, but we had a better variety," he said. "When I took over the orchard, 50 percent of the crop was McIntosh, and now I don't have one Mac tree. Everybody jumped on the Gala thing." Small orchards The super-spindle system didn't catch on to the same degree in Washington. Kidston said it was particularly suited to British Columbia because most growers had small orchards. Today, an estimated 1,200 growers farm just over 14,000 acres of tree fruits, making the average orchard size just over ten acres. "We don't have those expansive acreages available, so we had to make better use of what we had," Kidston said. "We're limited by irrigation—which is the way Washington State is—but we don't have the plateaus and benches that Washington has to develop on. By the early 1950s, you could say that pretty well everything that was suitable for tree fruits was already planted to tree fruits because of the availability of water." In the Okanagan Valley, water comes from mountain lakes and is stored in reservoirs. Land cost The cost of land has been another limiting factor. The very places that are good for fruit growing are also areas that attract well-to-do retirees from Calgary or Vancouver, which has Apple acreage in British Columbia, Canada, has declined by more than 60 percent in the last 25 years. by Geraldine Warner Growers face land constraints Vernon Kelowna Penticton Peachland Summerland Oliver Osoyoos Salmon Arm Enderby Armstrong BRITISH COLUMBIA WASHINGTON STATE Okanagan Lake Okanogan River Wood Lake Vaseux Lake Osoyoos Lake Skaha Lake Swan Lake Kalamalka Lake Shuswap Lake PHOTO BY GERALDINE WARNER PLAY scan to watch Jamie Kidston grafted Cameo trees to Ambrosia but fi nds the distance between trees (three feet) is too wide. B.C. apple growing region About 98 percent of British Columbia's apple production comes from the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. Apple production has declined in recent years with the growth of the wine industry.

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