Small U-Pick cherry tree farms are all over Penticton and the South Okanagan. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Small U-Pick cherry tree farms are all over Penticton and the South Okanagan. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

VIDEO: Backyard fruit trees must be maintained to keep commercial orchards safe

Pest infestations spreading to neighbouring fruit stocks can decimate orchards quickly

It is hard to beat the joy of biting into a fresh Okanagan peach or eating perfectly ripe cherries. The Okanagan is remembered for its apples, peaches, cherries and tree fruits and more recently, for its grape vineyards, cideries and organic produce.

But noxious pests and insects from neglected backyard fruit trees can decimate a commercial orchard quickly. That’s why the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) is once again reminding people thinking of planting fruit trees or already have some, that owners of fruit-bearing trees, berries and bushes are responsible for controlling insect pests on their properties.

RDOS bylaws have been in place since 2001 to prevent pest infestations from spreading to neighbouring fruit stocks and the crops of professional growers potentially devastating their livelihood. The RDOS responds to complaints concerning fruit-bearing trees that are not properly maintained or are infected by pests.

Maintaining fruit trees doesn’t have to mean using pesticides. Pesticides are the last resort. The RDOS recommends using good weeding, pruning, harvesting and watering to maintain healthy trees.

Noxious pests often lack natural enemies and can quickly take over plantings from a single fruit tree in a backyard to an entire commercial orchard.

Well-maintained plantings are more resistant to pest infestations and produce higher quality fruit, without threatening commercial growers. The RDOS Noxious Pest Program has the goal to educate individuals that are considering planting a fruit-bearing tree or shrub, or have a pre-existing planting, about their responsibility to care for and manage pests. Neglected trees can be reported and will be required to be remedied in accordance to the RDOS bylaw.

The RDOS provides property owners and residents a tool kit, best care and maintenance guides for fruit-bearing plants.

“It’s important that residents and commercial producers know how to maintain their crops and what kind of noxious pests they may be up against in the region,” says RDOS Chair, Karla Kozakevich. “These resources can help guide new and experienced growers in producing healthy, vibrant crops without posing risks to neighbouring orchards or residential trees.”

READ ALSO: E-Bike tour operators gear up for a better 2021

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