British Columbia’s orchard replant program, originally scheduled to end in December 2006, has been extended for another year. The program provides partial funding to growers for replanting.

Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, said the program has a carryover of about Can.$2.5 million—about half of one year’s allotment left over—that will be made available to growers in 2007. Growers who have ordered trees and are considering replanting their orchards this spring will be able to apply for funds, which will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Meanwhile, the association is trying to negotiate a further extension of the program with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

The B.C. fruit industry credits the program with stimulating the modernization of about 60 percent of the province’s tree fruit acreage since it began in 1991. It has helped apple and cherry growers to replant with new varieties and to switch to high-density growing systems that come into bearing faster and are less labor intensive than standard orchards.

“It’s been a very valuable program,” Sardinha said during the annual Hort Forum in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. “I strongly believe if we had not had a replant program we would be a cottage industry today.”

The province has about 1,800 orchardists, including between 400 and 500 large commercial growers, with 18,000 acres in production. About 69 percent of the acreage is in apples, 15 percent in cherries, 7 percent in peaches, and 4 percent in pears.

The program grants Can.$5 a tree for replanting, up to a maximum of $7,000 per acre for apples. The grant for soft fruit and pears is $750 per acre plus $5 per tree to a maximum of $4,810 per acre.