From boosting fruit quality to building export readiness and tackling pests and problems, Hort Innovation continues to invest the cherry R&D levy in a number of projects. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. And to discover how the industry’s marketing levy will be put to use this season, check out the marketing snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the cherry Strategic Investment Advisory Panel has recently been completed. Information on the SIAP chair will be made available on Hort Innovation’s Cherry grower page shortly. The page will also continue to make available summaries from the SIAP’s meetings.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

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. 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 communications program (CY15002)

Status: New project, carrying on from Maintenance and ongoing development of communications across the Australian cherry industry (CY11026)

What’s it all about? Like its predecessor, this program is focused on 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? Beginning in July 2016, some of the outputs of the program will include continued production of the industry’s quarterly Australian Cherries magazine, which will be available in both print and in electronic form suitable for desktop, mobile and tablet viewing. The industry’s monthly e-newsletter will also be continued, with videos communicating R&D project outputs also being produced and distributed via the e-newsletter.

 

National cherry development program (CY12023)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project coordinates 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.

What’s the latest update? This year roadshows took place in October – in Victoria on the 3rd, in New South Wales over the 4th and 5th, in South Australia on the 7th, and in Tasmania on the 10th.

The programs were developed around state priorities, with a range of presentations, field walks and experts arranged. A key guest speaker was Associate Professor Dr Mathew Whiting from Washington State University, who has recently completed several projects on mechanical pruning in apples and sweet cherries and also presented on new information collected from recent projects on cherry pollination, fruit set and fruit size.

 

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? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting the project was revealing interesting information on annual changes under conventional nutrient management and alternative treatments involving humates with combined minerals, and humates with ‘effective microbes’ (a mix of about 80 different species of co-existing beneficial microorganisms).

Data analysis from the 2015/16 season was still in progress. To date alternative treatments appear to be producing a higher percentage of A-grade fruit with a reduction in cracking.

 

Optimal management of pre-harvest rot in sweet cherry (CY13001)

Status: Near-completed project

What’s it all about? Due for completion by the end of November, this project has had a number of key aims around knowledge and management of pre-harvest rot in sweet cherries. These have included:

  • To clarify the key pathogens involved in pre-harvest rot, to ensure management is targeted at the right pathogens
  • To determine infection pathways for these pathogens, to ensure management is targeted at the right time
  • To develop a weather-based tool for growers that can be used to gauge infection risk of certain pathogens
  • To develop a monitoring protocol in which pre-harvest rot incidence can be used to gauge rot risk at harvest.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting, final field season activities had been completed, including assessments of latent infection and rot for orchards in Tasmania and New South Wales. A weather-based infection-risk tool had been developed and was being tested with new infection models derived from the project.

The project’s final report will be summarised in the next edition of Hortlink and, when available, will be able to be ordered at http://horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports (final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies).

 

Other R&D projects of note…

» 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.

» Export readiness and market access (CY16004), a new project for the industry for which Hort Innovation is currently appointing a service provider. The project will support the export readiness of the cherry industry over the next three seasons by training growers, packers and exporters on the requirements for export to markets of interest; facilitating the registration and audit of export facilities; and developing and implementing a robust monitoring and management program for a range of pests and disease of quarantine concern to export markets. It will also maintain a biosecurity management plan and deliver an export strategy detailing market access, improvement and development priorities, among other goals.

» Cherry industry market access program (CY16006), for which Hort Innovation is currently appointing service providers. This new program will have five sub-projects to:

  • Establish the risk of codling moth in the cherry export pathway, and recommend how it could be mitigated to an appropriate level of protection
  • Provide data packages and peer-reviewed publications on methyl bromide disinfestation of cherries for Queensland fruit fly
  • Update cherry industry biosecurity planning resources and progress implementation of biosecurity planning in the industry
  • Enable implementation of brown sugar flotation testing for Queensland fruit fly in the industry systems approach, at all appropriate control points in the production chain
  • Undertake and report on a program of investigation and consultation on opening cherry market access to the US, based on irradiation and methyl bromide.

» Thrips species in NSW cherries and the timing of associated ring russet injury (CY16000), a new project kicking off in September, which will examine thrips species and activity in New South Wales orchards, and consider correlation with ring russet damage.

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

Capitalising on the ‘Cherish the moment’ tagline, this 2016/17 marketing season will encourage Australian consumers to extend their love of cherries by enjoying them across the whole of summer, not just for the days around and on Christmas.

Point-of-sale (POS) kits are being delivered to retailers around the country to trigger impulse purchase in store, and to inspire meal occasions with cherries over the season. Bunting, posters and branded cherry bags will make up the kits.


cherry-cherish-the-season-pos

‘Cherish the season’ POS kit materials


The season will also be supported by state-based marketing activity at the independent-retailer level (sampling, further point-of-sale materials etc), offering high value for money opportunities to boost consumer awareness and sales. Targeted state-based media actives will also be executed at launch time.

Plus international activity

Now in Season is a multi-industry, multi-country campaign that promotes Australian produce in priority international markets via in-store activity. As part of this program, there will be sampling and POS material in international retail stores to encourage trial and purchase of Australian cherries. Countries of priority for cherry activity include Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and United Arab Emirates.

On the trade front, Australian cherries have also been showcased via Australia Fresh – the multi-industry export-market-development program for fruits, nuts and vegetables. The program’s activities, which have a focus on exhibiting at international trade shows, represent an important strategy for boosting the export and consumption of Australian cherries overseas.

So far, via Australia Fresh, Australian cherries have been represented at the Asia Fruit Logistica trade show in Hong Kong in September, and at the China World Fruit & Vegetable Trade Fair in Beijing at the end of October.

In November, Australia Fresh will also have a presence for the first time at the Middle East’s largest fresh produce expo, World of Perishables, in Dubai. Early in 2017 it will also have a pavilion at the Gulfood expo in Dubai – the largest food expo in the world.

GROWER PROFILE

FIONA HALL, CAERNARVON CHERRY CO, NSW

With a nose for opportunity, Fiona Hall is determined to explore every feasible avenue for improving farm-gate returns, above and beyond efficiently growing, marketing and exporting great fresh produce.

It all began six years ago when Fiona took up full-time work in the family growing business, at the time run by her husband, his brother and his father. “I married into the industry back in 1997 and had always been involved with packing the fruit between my other work, but my full-on involvement has come in recent years. It grew out of a passion to be hands on and to get the message about our produce and other products out there,” Fiona said.

“As well as fresh cherries we also grow apples across five orchards, and we do cherry juice and some other value-added products. I thought we needed a brand to cover everything, and so the premium Australian fruit brand BiteRiot! was born.”

The unified brand was an important step in the company’s business strategy, and cherries from around 15 growers across New South Wales are also now packed, marketed and exported under the label. “We did about 1500 tonnes of cherries last year, and as our plantings grow this is set to increase,” Fiona said.

And the business opportunities haven’t stopped there. “I think an important strategy for improving farm-gate returns in horticulture is to consider other ways of being innovative outside of the actual growing, from value adding to looking towards agri-tourism,” Fiona said. “For us, we’re just starting up with agri-tourism. We have a beautiful old hall that was built on our property between the first and second world wars, and have set it up so that people can hire it out for functions such as birthday parties, weddings and corporate events. It’s close to town, it’s near a really picturesque dam, and it’s just lovely.”

As well as more pick-your-own farm-gate activity and continuing to grow the hall venue’s popularity, the next step for the business will be looking at on-farm accommodation options, Fiona said. “These sort of agri-tourism opportunities are a good way to improve your profitability and also help form a great connection with the public.”

And it’s keeping the public satisfied that Fiona sees as one of the key challenges for the cherry industry going forward, from a retail and market point of view. “Today the demands of consumers are much higher than they’ve ever been. Customers want bigger, harder and sweeter cherries, and we need to be able to develop and deliver these at the same cost,” she said.

“As well as work into new varieties that have the qualities consumers are looking for, and the qualities growers need – such as the ability to cope with rain – we also need to have quality standards within the industry to deliver consistent, good fruit and improve consumer confidence. This is the way we can increase domestic consumption.”

Fiona said that crop protection options and market access for mainland cherry growers are also top priorities. “I think over the last 12 months our industry’s R&D has really stepped up. There’s a lot getting done, and we just have to keep the momentum going,” she said.

“Our business is happy to get involved in R&D, too. We’re doing fruit fly trapping and monitoring on our properties as part of industry fruit fly work, for example, and are also working with the NSW DPI on irradiation treatment of cherries for access into Indonesia. And of course we’re open to adopting research results and new technologies that become available.”

Fiona was also the recipient of a Nuffield Scholarship under a Hort-Innovation-funded R&D project for the apple and pear industry. Though her project had a focus on the apple industry, what she learnt can be applied across horticulture.

“My Nuffield experience was a great opportunity to make contact with growers from around the world and to see the challenges they face and how they work around them. One of the biggest takeaways was how much collaboration goes on. Obviously in Australia, particularly with cherries, our geography is a challenge when it comes to working together and networking, but sharing, understanding where everyone is coming from, and collaborating where we can will only make us stronger.”


Hall on Caernarvon. Photo: Steve Gosch

The hall on Fiona’s property (photo by Steve Gosch)


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