Reducing post-harvest irrigation in sweet cherry production

Research Brief Publication Date: May 07, 2024
Last Updated: July 15, 2024

Elizabeth Houghton, Kirsten Bevandick, Denise Neilsen, Kirsten Hannam, and Louise Nelson.


This study investigated whether reducing post-harvest irrigation in 'Sweetheart' cherry orchards would negatively affect fruit quality, yield, the timing of flower bud development, or flower bud cold hardiness. 

The Okanagan Valley is one of the main production areas for sweet cherry in Canada, alongside other high-value tree fruits and wine grapes. Irrigation strategies that improve water-use efficiency while safeguarding crop yield and quality need to be evaluated to improve agricultural climate resiliency in the face of increasingly likely water restrictions.

Previous studies have shown that reducing irrigation post-harvest did not negatively affect fruit yield or quality for apricot, Japanese plum, peach, and sweet cherry. However, there has been limited research on the impact of water reductions on flower bud development and cold hardiness, factors that directly impact fruit yield and quality.

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‘Sweetheart’ cherries. Photo by Elizabeth Houghton.

About this Brief

This brief was prepared by the BC Food Web team with the help of Elizabeth Houghton, and is based on the following scientific journal article:

Houghton, E., Bevandick, K., Neilsen, D., Hannam, K., & Nelson, L. M. (2023). Effects of post-harvest deficit irrigation on sweet cherry (Prunus avium) in five Okanagan Valley, Canada, orchards: II. Phenology, cold hardiness, fruit yield, and quality. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 103(2), 184-200. 


Key Findings

Post-harvest watering of ‘Sweetheart’ cherry trees was reduced by 30% and 50% with no negative effects on fruit quality and yield, timing of flower bud development, or flower bud cold hardiness over three years.