Cherry ripe

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE - By Rod­ney Woods

. . . Cherry grow­ers around the re­gion have started har­vest­ing their crops, in­clud­ing Be­nalla’s Mark Fo­letta. With the fruit flour­ish­ing in the dry con­di­tions, Mr Fo­letta ex­pects a qual­ity crop in time for Christmas.

De­spite most farm­ers pray­ing for rain for most of the year, cherry grow­ers across the re­gion have en­joyed the dry con­di­tions.

Be­nalla grower Mark Fo­letta said the dry con­di­tions had lim­ited the risk of dis­ease.

‘‘The dry con­di­tions have meant dis­ease pres­sures are rel­a­tively low,’’ he said.

‘‘With the dry con­di­tions, they are less prone to brown rot. I use no chem­i­cal fungi­cides so the dry con­di­tions have taken the pres­sure off.’’

Mr Fo­letta — who has 1200 trees of va­ri­eties such as Royal Dawn, Black Star and Lapin — is ex­pect­ing to har­vest an av­er­age of 1.5 to 2 tonnes of the fruit most pop­u­lar at Christmas time.

‘‘The con­sis­tency and flavour is bet­ter in the later va­ri­eties,’’ he said.

‘‘We have started pick­ing this week and we will roll through to Christmas.’’

Mr Fo­letta said he hired a mix­ture of lo­cals and back­pack­ers dur­ing har­vest.

‘‘It’s been a lot harder to find back­pack­ers. They have been a lot less re­li­able (to find) since the laws came in.

‘‘(The laws) hit peo­ple, who were do­ing the right thing, par­tic­u­larly the smaller op­er­a­tions.

‘‘North-east Vic­to­ria is unique as it has dif­fer­ent types of agri­cul­ture.

‘‘We should be en­cour­ag­ing young trav­ellers to come through the area be­cause it’s a pretty lovely spot here.’’

De­spite the late start to flow­er­ing, cher­ries are the first of the fruits grown in the Goul­burn Val­ley to be har­vested.

‘‘It is one of the last to flower but first to har­vest,’’ Mr Fo­letta said.

While qual­ity is set to be high, Mr Fo­letta said it had been an ‘‘in­ter­est­ing sea­son’’.

‘‘Qual­ity is go­ing to be good this year,’’ he said.

‘‘The flavour ripeness de­vel­op­ment is a bit slow.

‘‘What I would sug­gest is to buy cher­ries from places where you can try them first be­cause cher­ries don’t ripen once they are taken off (the trees).’’

Pic­tures: Rod­ney Braith­waite

Fes­tive fruit . . . We will be eat­ing good qual­ity cher­ries on Christmas Day, says Be­nalla grower Mark Fo­letta.

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