Rainfall in Chile likely to affect cherry production, says expert
Rains in October and cold start to the spring could hinder the flowering stage of Chilean cherry crops and may result in lower production volumes than anticipated, according to an expert.
Heavy rainfall was experienced in key cherry-growing regions over the weekend, with more rain forecast in the world's top exporting country later this month.
"The amount of rainfall varied depending on the area," Carlos Tapia, technical director at cherry consultant and research organization Avium, told Fresh Fruit Portal.
"In the VI and VII (O'Higgins and Maule) regions there was between 15-40ml (0.9-2.5 inches) of rainfall, but in the eighth and ninth regions there was quite a lot more because it rained almost all weekend,"
He said most notable effects would generally be in orchards that were somewhat delayed and in those where the flowering period was only just beginning.
There are three main ways that fruit set could be hindered due to rains during flowering, he explained. The lower temperatures could affect the chances of the flower being pollinated, the pollen could become heavier through contact with water and therefore be less easily spread, or the pollinators could be less efficient in the wet weather.
In general, Tapia said the start of spring in Chile had been colder than normal, which could affect harvest timing.
"If I compare phenological states with the 2015 and 2014 seasons, which were more normal, I would say that we are currently about seven days behind," he said.
"This doesn't mean that the harvest is going to be delayed by seven days...but it could be three or four days late."
The representative also noted fruit drop was more likely in cold springs.
"For this reason I'm not sure that all the fruit will finish its development process. It could be that fruit drops off and we end up with a far more regular fruit set than what we were expecting," he said.
Tapia added he was skeptical of the 35-million-box production figure some had predicted for the upcoming season, noting that often only 70-75% of the cherries produced in an orchard typically make it into boxes.
But despite these challenges, he expected the 2017-18 season to be successful on the whole for Chilean growers.
In late August, Chilean Cherry Committee president Cristián Tagle projected exports of around 160,000 metric tons (MT), which would represent a 67% boost over last season’s 94,869MT.
The projection figure, which was presented at a seminar for cherry growers held in Curicó, is equivalent to 8,700 containers or 32 million boxes.