Chilean growers take Australian lessons in cherry management
A group of Chilean cherry growers are currently touring Australian orchards to learn more about a management system that leads to shorter trees, meaning more than 80% of the fruit can be picked without using ladders.
The producers from the VII (Maule) region are learning about the KGB system in Tasmania and the Adelaide surrounds as part of a tour lead by Chile's Agricultural Innovation Foundation (FIA).
An FIA release said under the KGB system cherry pickers could keep both feet on the ground, in what is called a "pedestrian orchard".
"Pedestrian orchards are fields that have trees of a lower size, no more than 2.2 meters (7.22 feet), when they traditionally have a height of approximately 3.5 meters (11.48 feet)," said FIA assistant manager Fernando Jordán.
"This allows for earlier production, higher production in adulthood, better penetration of agrochemicals and fewer accidents caused by the use of ladders.
"However, the most important benefit is the higher performance of the pickers and a lower labor requirement for a higher amount of fruit that can be reached by hand."
The crop is Chile's sixth most planted fruit and the most profitable, with modern orchards reaching levels of US$10,000-15,000 per hectare. The FIA initiated the Australian tour to better harness this key product for the Chilean fruit industry, in a bid to face growing problems of labor scarcity in growing regions.
The delegation will visit Hansen Orchards in Tasmania, as well as Lenswood near Adelaide where they will be received by KGB system creator and developer Kym Green. The release highlighted Lenswood's climate was similar to Chile's central-south zone, making the trip ideal for comparing the system's affects on tree behavior and fruit under different conditions.