'Complete crop failure': Don't expect any apricots in Kamloops this summer

Residents of Kamloops, B.C., usually have an abundance of apricots to enjoy in the summer months, but this year it will be surprising if trees in the city produce any fruit at all.

Very few apricot trees have flowered in Kamloops this year after a cold winter that damaged the trees' leaves, according to Ernest Phillips, horticulture instructor at Thompson Rivers University.

He said the roots of some trees may also have been affected by the cold because a lack of snow cover left their roots exposed to severe conditions.

The consequence of that exposure, said Phillips, is that the local crops "will not get any fruit."

"We should not have any expectations for apricots," he said. "We will have a complete crop failure."

'Shell-shocked' trees

Phillips explained to CBC's Daybreak Kamloops producer Jenifer Norwell that apricot flowers, which turn into the fruit, form in the summer and remain on tree branches in a dormant state during the winter.

Phillips said those flowers were tricked by warm temperatures in January and "broke dormancy" but then suffered in very cold weather in February, when Phillips suspects most damage occurred.

Trees will look "kind of shell shocked for a season at least," said Phillips. He also noted there are fewer flowers on peaches and nectarines this year as well. 

Jenifer Norwell/CBC

Phillips told Norwell it will be an "unfortunate loss of income" for some farmers, but that most apricot producers do have crop insurance.

He said there may be the occasional tree that could produce if that tree was next to a house or a structure that may have sheltered it over the winter.

According to Phillips, fruitless apricot seasons are not unheard of and usually occur every five to seven years. He said it can actually be beneficial to "give the trees a rest" because all of the nutrition absorbed will go into the tree's structure and not into producing fruit, improving their health for future crop yields.

"In a roundabout way it can be helpful to the trees to have that absence of fruit," he said.

But it also means Kamloops apricot-lovers will have to find a roundabout way to get their fix of the fruit this year.