North Coast stonefruit season kicks off
From the October 2011 edition of Agriculture Today.
North Coast peach and nectarine growers are currently experiencing one of their best harvests in recent years.
After three disastrous years due to poor weather conditions, this season has been more in line with what was expected when the industry was established some 30 years ago.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) horticulturalist, Phillip Wilk, said the industry was set up with early-season low-chill varieties to take advantage of the North Coast’s traditional dry spring and abundant sunlight.
“In normal years like this one, the result is good quality, colourful fruit reaching the eastern seaboard markets in September-October-November, before fruit from the traditional high-chill stonefruit areas of Swan Hill, Batlow-Tumut and Stanthorpe.
“Things have run more to that plan this year and producers have been experiencing good prices for quality fruit.”
Mr Wilk said low-chill growers were always replacing old varieties with new to meet changing consumer demands – with the trend towards white-fleshed and firm-ripe varieties on the increase.
“Stonefruit trees grown in this area start to bear mature fruit after about year three and can be obsolete after 10 or 12 years,” he said.
“So in any one year growers are probably replacing 10 per cent or more of their older trees with new plantings.”
Mr Wilk said the challenge was to develop new varieties that will meet consumer taste and market trends four or more years into the future.
“The best outcome would be to replicate what the apple industry came up with in ‘Pink Lady’,” he said.
“To be realistic the gains are more likely to be incremental; there are no guarantees; it’s a long hard slog.”
The DPI continues to work with the industry on varietal selection.
Several private companies have been involved in the breeding and evaluation of the varieties specifically for low-chill areas.
The DPI’s role is to evaluate these selections for the North Coast.
Funding for the project is coming from the North Coast Low-chill Stonefruit Growers Association and the Horticultural Australia Limited.
Contact Phillip Wilk, Wollongbar, (02) 6626 1200, firstname.lastname@example.org