Lack of cold mornings bites cherries hard

NINETY per cent of the local cherry crop has failed because of unseasonable winter weather.

There was no conclusive explanation for what happened to the fruit, but the frost which devastated local wine grape crops wasn't to blame.

It appears there were not enough cold mornings during winter for the cherries to properly set.

Office manager of Cherry King Jade Gooda said her orchard and packing company boxed 500 tonnes last year, but this year they are estimating 50 tonnes will be closer to the mark.

"The cherries in our region have done terribly, we will probably have 10 per cent of what we usually do," Ms Gooda said.

"We have a variety from America that grows in hotter climates like Hillston which sets earlier, but it needs to be cold in winter.

"Usually we export a lot and this year there won't be any exports."

Ms Gooda stressed while a warm winter was the likely culprit, there may have been a combination of factors responsible for the crop failure.

The development officer for temperate fruits at the DPI, Kevin Dodds, said Hillston is one of the warmer areas for growing cherries and there was an inherent risk growing farmers factored in.

"Cherries require an accumulation of winter temperatures below a certain threshold and a certain number of hours at that temperature to initiate flower buds," Mr Dodds said.

"Hillston is one of the potentially more marginal for receiving an appropriate amount of winter chilling and it is understood the warm winter was the cause of the low crop.

"It's one of those things. Marginal areas can be high value production areas because they come in early in the market when prices are good but that's the trade-off."

The sale of the first box of cherries was a silver-lining for the local cherry industry, selling for $50,000 at auction in Sydney.

All proceeds went to Save Our Sons for muscular dystrophy research and Ben Cicco won in memory of his father Lui Cicco, who died from the same disease. Cherry King has packaged the first box of the season for the last six years and were honoured to be called on again.

NINETY per cent of the local cherry crop has failed.

NINETY per cent of the local cherry crop has failed.


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