Fruit quality remains a key focus for Hort Innovation’s investment of the cherry R&D level, with projects ranging from maximising nutrient availability for top-notch fruit, to tackling pre-harvest rot and pests of concern. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. And to discover how the industry’s marketing levy is being put to use, head to the marketing snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

After you’ve read about the cherry industry’s current levy investments and outcomes in this edition of Hortlink, check out Hort Innovation’s cherry grower page. The grower page remains your one-stop-shop for industry information, including:

  • Important updates regarding the cherry Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), as available. Developed in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, the SIP is a document outlining the priorities for strategic investment in the industry. It is to be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the cherry Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest updates regarding the cherry SIAP, including details on the panel’s recently appointed chair, Richard de Vos, and summaries from all in-person SIAP meetings to date. The SIAP last convened via teleconference on February 9 to review industry feedback on the SIP, and is due to meet again in April/May.
  • The 2015/16 cherry industry annual report, detailing activities from the previous financial year.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the cherry industry.

Any questions?

As well as the cherry grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Mark Spees is always available to answer questions on the cherry program, on 0439 574 173 or at mark.spees@horticulture.com.au. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Claire Tindale-Penning.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Cherry Industry Market Access Program (multiple projects)

Status: New program

What’s it all about? A key priority for Hort Innovation and the cherry industry, the Cherry Industry Market Access Program is now getting up and running. This new initiative will increase market access for the fruit, providing management practices and evidential support for market-access negotiations.

What’s the latest update? The program is made up of five sub-projects:

  • Cherry Industry Biosecurity planning review (CY16010), which was contracted in January this year. This project is updating the Cherry Industry Biosecurity Plan and progressing implementation of biosecurity planning, to assist the industry in effectively managing biosecurity risks.
  • Review of host status of cherries for codling moth (CY16008), which has recently been contracted. This project will establish the risk of codling moth in the cherry export pathway, and recommend how it can be mitigated to an appropriate level of protection.
  • Methyl bromide disinfestation of cherries for Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) (CY16009), which at the time of writing was currently being contracted. It will provide data packages and peer-reviewed publications on methyl bromide disinfestation of cherries for Queensland fruit fly, in order to develop improved market access with commercially viable protocols.
  • Implementing brown sugar flotation (BSF) for assuring freedom of fruit from Qfly (CY16011), which at the time of writing was in the final stages of being contracted. This project will enable implementation of brown sugar flotation testing for Queensland fruit fly at all appropriate control points in the production chain, as part of a systems approach, to assess the successful performance of control measures to support exports.
  • Developing market access to the US for cherries based on irradiation and methyl bromide (CY16012), which has recently been contracted. This component of the market access program will undertake and report on a program of investigation and consultation on opening cherry market access to the US, based on irradiation and methyl bromide.
Optimal management of pre-harvest rot in sweet cherry (CY13001)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? This three-year project has helped develop knowledge of the identity and management of pre-harvest rot pathogens in sweet cherries. Key resources for growers that have been produced out of its work include:

  • An identification guide for common cherry rot pathogens, available from Hort Innovation here
  • A factsheet specifically on brown rot (caused by Monilinia fructicola), available here
  • A weather-based ‘cherry-rot risk’ tool, which will help growers be aware of infection risk at key times. The tool is currently in the final stages of consultation with industry and, when finalised, will be available by request. Further information on how to request the tool, and a user guide, are available here.

Key messages from the project include that while cherry rots look similar, different pathogens are involved. Botrytis cinerea was found to be the dominant rot pathogen in orchards surveyed in southern Tasmania, and Alternaria alternata was a dominant pathogen causing rot in orchards in Orange and Young in New South Wales – with pathogenicity tests confirming the latter could infect intact fruit.

Monilinia species have long been thought to be the major cause of rots in cherries, but the results from this project suggest this is not the case. Given the different fungal pathogens involved, this has implications for management of cherry rots within Australian orchards.

The researchers also found that pathogen-spore abundance occured right throughout the sweet cherry season, from flowering, with a new molecular method developed to quantify spores of Botrytis cinerea, Monilinia laxa and Monilinia fructicola.

 


Spore monitoring

A trap for pathogen-spore monitoring in project CY13001’s 2015/16 season (above) and different types of rot on a cherry (below)

Rots on a cherry


Improving fruit quality and consistency in cherries through maximised nutrient availability (CY12002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in 2012, this five-year Tasmanian project is investigating whether soil microbiology can be utilised to maximise the availability and uptake of plant nutrients – essentially improving soil health to in turn boost crop yields and fruit quality.

What’s the latest update? This project has two trial sites in Tasmania – one in the Derwent Valley and one in Nicholls Rivulet. Both are looking at the effects of conventional and alternative nutrient management, with the alternative treatment including humates with combined minerals, and the application of ‘effective microbes’ (a mix of about 80 different species of beneficial microorganisms).

Assessment of the 2015/16 season has been completed and analysed with previous results. The researchers note that though the two trial sites have different soil types and cultivars, they both show the same trend: that alternative treatments appear to produce a higher percentage of A-grade fruit with a reduction in fruit cracking.

From 2015/16 for Lapins:

  • There was a 30 per cent higher crop load from cherry trees managed with humates with combined minerals, compared to trees with conventional nutrient management
  • Further, addition of effective microbes improved fruit pack-out – with 84 per cent of fruit classified as A-grade compared to 77 per cent from trees with conventional nutrient management
  • Fruit cracking was reduced by 80 per cent with the alternative regime and by 73 per cent with the application of effective microbes.

For both Lapins and Sweetheart, the treatments did not have any effect on fruit skin or flesh colour, dry matter content, pedicel diameter or firmness. For Lapins, the researchers did note smaller fruit diameter and lower fruit weight with the alternative treatments, most likely due to higher crop load (with the alternative treatments not affecting crop load in Sweetheart). Malic acid concentration was unaffected in Lapins, but in Sweetheart, the alternative regimen produced fruit with higher malic acid.

Thrips species in NSW cherries and the timing of associated ring russet injury (CY16000)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in September last year, this project is examining thrips species and activity in New South Wales orchards, and investigating correlation with ring russet damage.

What’s the latest update? By mid-January this year, field work had been completed in both the Young and Orange districts of New South Wales. This work included assessments, thrips collections and trapping. In the laboratory, field traps were inspected and used to start producing population and species data. The work will be ongoing.

In regards to ring russet, no incident of the issue was seen in the Young and Orange orchards, despite regular and intensive fruit inspections from fruit set to harvest, and despite the presence of thrips on traps. However additional inspections were made at two orchards in the Batlow district, where ring russet was observed and thrips collections made. It is hoped lab results for these blocks will provide some insight into the relationship between the two.

Cherry communications program (CY15002)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This program is focused on maintaining and improving strong communication with cherry growers and other industry stakeholders. It works to supply timely industry news, R&D updates, marketing outcomes and other key information so that growers are able to make informed decisions as new opportunities and challenges arise.

What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Export readiness and market access (CY16004), which is in the final stages of being contracted and will soon begin to support the export readiness of the cherry industry. The project will train growers, packers and exporters on the requirements for export to markets of interest; facilitate the registration and audit of export facilities; and develop and implement a monitoring and management program for a range of pests and disease of quarantine concern. The project will also maintain a biosecurity management plan and deliver an export strategy detailing market access, improvement and development priorities, among other goals. A more detailed update will be provided in the next edition of Hortlink.
  • National cherry development program (CY12023), which has been responsible for coordinating annual roadshows for the cherry industry to keep growers and other industry stakeholders up-to-date with the details of cherry projects and their impacts, as well as other industry issues. As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, last year there were five successful roadshow events held in October, with over 180 growers in attendance.
  • Australian cherry evaluation utilising precocious rootstocks (CY12024), which is examining the most promising precocious rootstocks currently available to the Australian cherry industry. It will provide new, well-adapted varieties and information on preferred rootstock combinations to increase profitability and a competitive advantage for Australian growers.

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

The 2016/17 marketing season has again used the ‘Cherish the Moment’ logo and tagline, with the campaign positioning cherries as a fruit for the whole summer season – not just for Christmas Day – to drive extra purchase.


CHERISHTHEMOMENT_LOGO


Evidence shows that sales of cherries are highest around Christmas and then drop off in the post-Christmas days. To encourage consumers to celebrate many occasions over the summer period with cherries, the campaign has proposed that all kinds of special moments should be cherished with cherries – barbecues with friends, lazy summer weekend breakfasts, picnics by the beach and more.

Execution of the message was delivered through point-of-sale kits developed for independent grocers. These kits included posters, bunting and branded cherry bags for shopping convenience. They were distributed around the country via state representatives, who have also been responsible for running events and media-specific activities in each state for the 2016/17 season, as below:

Queensland

In Queensland, the campaign focused on incentivising customers to impulse purchase cherries while at their local fruit shop. There was in-store marketing and a competition, ‘A Taste of Summer’, which ran from November 21 to December 18.

During the competition period, customers who purchased Australian cherries were given a scratch card at the counter. They could win a prize instantly, or enter into a second chance draw by going online and entering. The prizes were summer-themed to tie in with the national cherry marketing messages around barbecues, summer and the like, and included a summer cruise for two, a Webber barbecue, a camping esky, Wahu beach packs, Nutribullet blenders and Your Local Fruit Shop store vouchers.

Retailers who took part were provided with a promotional kit a week in advance, including instructions for staff on how to set up the competition. The promotion was also supported through digital activities (including the Your Local Fruit Shop website and e-newsletters) and a social media campaign using Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

There were 245 online entries from 62 stores, with other customers contacting the cherry team directly to claim instant prizes.


Social media for the cherry comp

Social media activity supporting the ‘A Taste of Summer’ promotion in Queensland


 Tasmania
To support domestic cherry sales across the farm gate, farmers’ markets and independent supermarket chains, Tasmania activity had a focus on the promotion of cherries through the annual Tasmanian Fruits Farm Gate Guide.

This guide highlights fruit growers across Tasmania who sell fresh fruit at their shed door and/or offer ‘pick your own’ experiences, as well as farmers’ markets and, increasingly, value adders. There were 30,000 copies distributed to the tourism sector and regional community bodies for this ninth edition.

The national point-of-sale kits were distributed to key farm-gate shops, producer stalls at farmers’ markets and independent supermarkets, on top of social media support.

Western Australian

Marketing activity in the state included strong engagement through local media, including weekly “what’s fresh in season” interviews on metro and regional radio.

Meanwhile, the cherry point-of-sale kits were distributed to independent retailers for self-collection via a display in the wholesale markets. Merchandisers then went to the stores who claimed the kits to set up a strong display to attract consumer attention and motivate purchase.

There was also sampling carried out in some stores to encourage purchase.

Victoria

The 2016 Victorian cherry season was launched by directly engaging with ‘influencers’ (media and social media representatives) to build strong brand advocacy for both Australian and Victorian cherries, and to help broadcast key messages through the season.

On November 26, a successful media event was held, engaging 38 influencers across print, radio, and social media including food and health bloggers. There were also marketing managers from the main Melbourne retail markets in attendance.

The event involved a bus ride to the Yarra Valley for influencers to experience cherries first-hand with growers. They visited Steve Chapman’s Chappies U-Pick Cherries and Berries, where they taste-tested different varieties and got out in the orchard to pick their own cherries. This was followed by lunch at Wild Cattle Creek Estate, where a cherry-themed lunch was shared.

The influencers were given folders to read on the bus including a cherry media release, a fact sheet on cherry varieties, and information on the health and wellbeing benefits of sweet cherries. To continue the cherry experience following the event, they were also given a box of cherries, a colourful cherry apron and samples of new cherry drinks from CherryHill Orchards.

The event was valuable for providing a human face to the cherry industry, helping media and their audiences to establish an emotional connection to Australian and Victorian cherries into the future.

New South Wales

The season launch in New South Wales was held across two days on the weekend of October 21. A number of dignitaries, including representatives from local and state government, were in attendance along with growers, industry suppliers and more. The event drew media coverage, with activity details conveyed through the New South Wales Cherry Growers Association. In-store point-of-sale kits were also distributed.

 South Australia

Due to extreme weather conditions that destroyed much of the harvest in South Australia, no promotions were run this season. Those growers who did promote their ‘pick your own’ events on-farm report they had great success and sold out of all fruit well ahead of the end of their planned opening times.

Export market activity

The cherry industry is also involved in the Now In Season program, led by the Victorian Government. Now In Season is a multi-industry, multi-country campaign that promotes Australian produce to in priority international markets. Activity under the program includes sampling and point-of-sale materials to encourage trial and purchase of Australian produce, as well as media activity. Priority countries for cherry activity include Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and United Arab Emirates.

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