A new cherry protection system, which the manufacturers claim can be opened and closed in minutes, is heading to European orchards having been successfully used in Chile.
Wayki Solutions says that a single worker can cover, or remove, on hectare in just 20 minutes, much less time than is required with most other systems, including automated ones. The system uses a normal hand drill to turn the winding mechanism, which in turn opens and closes the covers, which sit above the existing orchard poles.
Cristián Lopez of Wayki Europe said, “Around the world, we are experiencing more and more severe and unexpected weather conditions. This has serious implications for the fruit business as it raises the possibility of events including rain and hail damaging fruit, and high winds damaging growing infrastructure such as poles and cables. Wayki is a very exciting development because it gives growers the control to cover and uncover their orchards and vineyards in a matter of minutes in response to these events.”
As well as cherries, the company believes that the cover system may have applications for crops including blueberries, apples and other soft fruit, and different types of cover can be fitted.
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A report by 2016 Nuffield Scholar Jan Redpath of Angus Soft Fruits suggests that late season cherry production could provide a lucrative crop for Scottish growers prepared to invest in suitable production methods.
In Cherries: the late season opportunity, Mr Redpath argues that, ‘Late season cherries can be produced successfully and profitably in climates as demanding as Scotland’s.’ His conclusion comes after visiting growers in Chile, New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada and Norway, as well as closer to home in the UK and the Netherlands.
“Visits to Norway and Tasmania in particular showed that climatic adversity can be overcome with robust covering methods,” he explained. “Ongoing research in Europe and North America is likely to lead to better later varieties. I additionally noted that storage techniques exist that enable ‘not so late’ varieties of known potential to give a safe option to season extension.”
Mr Redpath added, “We should not be afraid to grow cherries under covering systems developed specifically for cherries – these have been proven in some demanding climates. New entrants to late cherry production must pay great attention to the pruning requirements, especially during tree formation. It’s vital to decide on a system prior to establishing the plantation, with an end in mind at that point. Lastly, we can grow great varieties that are known to work, and also store them well. This can be better than growing the very latest variety that may have other lesser characteristics and may not store so well.”
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Having already helped suppliers sell larger than forecast quantities of strawberries, lettuce and carrots, the retailer is now taking advantage of the bumper crop of British cherries.
“Working with our suppliers we’re able to start the British cherry season two weeks earlier this year than in 2016. The abundance of cherries will be available for customers for an impressive eight weeks,” said Karen Bee, Buying Manager for stone fruit.
“The wonderful weather we’ve experienced across the UK has meant that our British cherry crop has come-on in bigger volumes than we’d forecast. Our supply partners have told us about a crop flush brought on by the bonus British sunshine. They have extra cherries from their growing sites in both Kent ‘the Garden of England’ and Herefordshire. We’ve worked with them to take their extra crop.”
So far Tesco has bought an extra 80 tonnes a week of British cherries, with larger 1 kg boxes available for £4.00. The retailer also said it aimed to have promotions on all different packs sizes to suit a variety of budgets.
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Trade organisation British Summer Fruits says that UK growers are set to harvest 4,500 tonnes of cherries this year, making this year the most productive season in more than 30 years.
However, despite this demand for home grown cherries still outstrips supply. The growth in production is reported to be down to dynamic young growers who have tapped into the burgeoning demand for British cherries. Record sales this year could exceed £32 million, with demand continuing to grow.
MD of cherry producer Haygrove, James Waltham, said, “Thanks to a combination of great varieties which are better suited to the UK climate, year-on-year performance of cherry orchards in general is far more consistent than it used to be, bringing greater yield and superior quality fruit.
“The British cherry season is also growing. Where it once lasted barely two months, the season now extends from early June until early September; thanks both to new varieties and modern growing systems, particularly the use of polytunnels.”
Tesco cherry buyer Tom Emmett commented, “Shoppers prefer British cherries as they’re considered to be amongst the best in the world – not only the richness of their taste but also the juiciness of their flesh and overall texture. Nothing beats a British cherry.
“It’s all about availability – if we can get British grown cherries then we know our shoppers will buy them. They are extremely popular and one of the absolute joys of summer.”
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