Chilean cherry growers must act now to produce strong 2017-18 crop, warns industry rep

February 16 , 2017

With the 2016-17 Chilean cherry deal wrapping up, an industry representative has urged growers to take immediate measures to ensure this summer’s high temperatures are not reflected in next season’s crop. 

Up until week 5, 94,450 metric tons (MT) of fruit had been exported, of which slightly over three-quartered has gone to China.

Carlos Tapia, technical director at cherry consultant and research organization Avium, told Fresh Fruit Portal the volumes were roughly in line with his pre-season estimates.

“I thought that it was going to be around 20 million boxes, and so I’m a little short, but it’s not nearly as low as 13-14 million boxes, which is what the pessimistic people thought we would have,” he said.

“Clearly there were some areas that were more affected than others by the frosts.”

He went on say that fruit quality had not been entirely up to scratch this season, which negative comments coming both from growers at the time of harvest and from importers in the Far East.

While the flowering stage last year had taken place during the typical period of mid to late-September, he explained the harvest date in many areas ended up around 15 days early.

“This means that, with a crop that already has a very short phenology, we had15 days fewer phenology, and so fruit development was quite heavily affected,” Tapia said.

While some negative comments were received as to fruit quality, Tapia said that in a season running so early it is challenging to have an excellent quality crop.

“However, despite the complaints, to me it seems that sales prices have been pretty good. We have to recognize that often the market can be flexible in an unusual season like this” he said.

Tapia highlighted that Chile’s central regions had experienced one of the hottest summers in years and warned this would impact directly on the formation of flowers for next season, as well as reservoir levels.

“For me, the next cherry season has already begun,” he said, emphasizing growers would need to work hard to ensure plants don’t show hydrothermal stress.

In seasons like this, he explained, the atmospheric demand and high temperatures can severely damage orchards and some varieties can be prone to deformation.

“From a management point of view, we are in the process of recuperating the orchards nutritional aspects” he said.

“We are irrigating at 100% the level of evaporation or maybe even 120%, and I think that this will be the case for at least the whole of February, and maybe even in March for the hottest areas.

“Irrigation is undoubtedly the most important factor in preventing this type of stress.”

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