Home' Grower : September 2011 Contents The South Australian Grower – September 2011
Season looking rosy
to buy local cherries
❏ By LIZ COTTON
ANEW focus on delivering
the message Buy Local SA
Cherries and improving
market access conditions for
growers is boosting industry
“This year, rather than focusing
on a season launch, our promotions
group is planning to work more
closely with the wholesale markets
and retailers to get the message out
there for consumers to support SA
cherries,” president of Cherr y
Growers SA Grant Wotton said.
One initiative to support this is
the Cherry Map, which has
expanded this year following its
launch in 2010, featuring more
locations for consumers to access
■ Supermarket taken to task
■ Market access major issue
■ New plantings into produc-
☛ AT A GLANCE
The Cherry Growers Association of SA’s Cherry Map has expanded this
year to continue promoting the State’s quality product.
Pre-emptive action keeps
Lower SE orchard on track
A BIODYNAMIC approach to
horticulture underpins the cherry
orchard of Nic and Alexi Kentish.
They have been assisted by “good
friend and amazing mentor” Kym
Green, who Mr Kentish says helped
him “enormously and particularly in an
industry where information-sharing and
advice giving is not a high priority”.
“Kym advised us to get the horticulture
and the total nutrition right and prioritise
our management practices,” he said.
“One of the biggest decisions was: do
I feed health into a tree or can I spray
later on? “Kym’s advice was feed, feed,
feed and it was a great call.”
Mr Kentish used BD 500 and BD 501
preparations on the orchard which
produced up to 15,000 kilograms of
cherries a year, with varieties including
lapins, stella, sir hans, sylvia, regina and
kordia as pollinators.
The orchard uses 1 megalitre ar
hectare annually of water but this is
monitored and often reduced because
of the region’s reliable rainfall.
One of the biggest challenges for the
Kentishs cherry operation has been the
variable weather and after last year, Mr
Kentish says “things can only improve”.
“I think cherries are a very fickle
crop but even so, we had rain every
week in December and 100
millimetres on January 10 which saw
our yield almost halved,” he said.
The 6000kg of cherries was enough
to break even after paying for picking
and packing, “but although it’s a labour
of love, it still has to pay its own way”.
Another challenge in the SE is birds,
but through biodynamics and adopting a
positive mentality, they are no longer a
problem for the orchard. Their practices
have also reduced insect and snail
Mr Kentish says he is keen to learn as
much as possible about biodynamics to
manage his orchard into the future.
“If we have to use a fungicide or a
herbicide, we still back it up with a
biodynamic mix. I can only say that
from what I have seen and
experienced, biodynamics works.”
The next step is to re-focus on value-
adding and increasing farmgate sales.
“I am convinced that farmgate sales
offer the best gross margin and we really
want to focus on that before Christmas –
when the market comes to you. After
Christmas, you have to go to the market.”
Mr Kentish said instead of trying to
harvest cherries and sell them within a
couple of days, he would look in the
future at putting the fruit through a retort
in order to create freezable and shippable
products, such as pie filling and pectin.
When he made the business decision to
move away from horticulture four years
ago, Mr Kentish did not believe he would
re-enter the industry anytime soon.
“But sometimes the destination and
journey become a bit confused,” he said.
farmgate sales or pick their own
The map can be downloaded
from the association’s website.
In addition, Mr Wotton said
negative media publicity from a
major supermarket had adversely
dramatically impacted on SA
“The Adelaide Hills region,
which grows the bulk of SA’s
cherries, did not pick much
volume until after the Christmas
celebrations, but although we did
suf fer losses from rain events
there was also a good supply of
quality sound fruit being picked.
Unfortunately, negative national
and statewide media publicity had
affected returns and sales, with
one national supermarket telling
customers there were limited
supplies of SA cherries.
“It told consumers they should
wait for Tasmanian or substitute
cherries for other fruit types,” Mr
“You can imagine what SA
growers thought of that.
“The fact that a major
supermarket thought it could
speak on behalf of industr y
“And in the past 12 months, this
has highlighted that negative and
uncoordinated public comment by
growers harms our industr y.”
Mr Wotton says prohibitive
protocols in export markets have
emerged as the main industry
challenge for exporters.
“Market access is one of the
major issues for us at the
moment,” he said.
“A number of cherr y growers
are concerned that markets, such
as Taiwan, Thailand and China,
have – or will have – protocols
that will not be commercially
practical or viable.
“But we have a South Australian
representative sitting on the
national working group looking at
this issue now.
“And we will be exploring the
idea of getting international
acceptance that SA, as a state, is
fruit fly-free, which it has a
number of years.”
Mr Wotton said growers and the
industry were well supported by
Biosecurity SA but state-area
freedom – or a level of local area
freedom – would be put to
Biosecurity Australia for negotiation.
He is “cautiously optimistic”
about the season ahead, as
growing conditions and timing
make a return to more “normal
“This is, of course, very
dependent on weather and in the
Hills, growers are starting to look
to the skies for some sunny days.
Early-protectant sprays will need
to go on soon.”
In a perfect year, Mr Wotton
calculated that SA would produce
upwards of 2500 tonnes of cherries.
“But the level is rising with the
new plantings over recent years
starting to come into
production,” he said.
“The weather so far has been
good to replenish soil water levels
and I think the cold temperatures
will give us the required chill to
set good levels of fruit – but there
is a long way to go.” Good
weather at pollination was a must
for a good set.
“Then we wait and hope we
don’t get too much rain in the
later ripening period,” he said.
Last year’s cherry season will long
be remembered by growers, but
mostly for all the wrong reasons.
The uncharacteristically late
start, combined with heavy,
consistent rain falls and disease
pressure became one of the worst
many growers had experienced.
Dr Wayne Boucher addressed
the Cherry Growers of Australia
annual conference in Adelaide on
August 1 in relation to the
carryover of diseases, such as
brown rot, during winter.
He said growers would need a
high-level of orchard hygiene and
in some cases – an increased
level of early brown rot spraying
Mr Wotton reinforced the need
for growers to be vigilant in
“After a number of challenging
seasons many growers in SA will
be considering the future of
cherry growing on their
properties,” he said.
“This year again there was a
proportion of fruit not picked.
Culling of poor-performing
varieties and an increased level of
tree management is a must.”
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