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Summerfruit NZ, December Update

Posted By Jo Pentreath | December 16, 2021

Richard Mills, Summerfruit NZ Technical Advisor

Enough of the rain and overcast conditions thanks very much! That was last month’s opening comment. It would appear that La Ninã is well and truly settled in with warm and moist, if not just plain old wet conditions.

As an industry we are now well into the harvest season, some cherry blocks have finished completely and others will be hoping to be well out by Christmas. This will give marketing space for Central Otago cherries. Apricots are now into the major Sundrop variety and at this rate there won’t be much left by New Year. There is certainly split fruit on the early nectarines, peaches are looking good and plums in volume will start up soon.

Part of this job is getting onto orchards and seeing what is happening first hand, a bit like an old-fashioned Apple and Pear Board rep from way back. The benefit is that you get to see the emotion and stress of growing stonefruit and to be able to see a bit of the frustration and hopefully share a smile or two. And often enough walk out with a little bit of really fresh tree ripe fruit.

Over the weekend I tipped 12 mm out of my rain gauge twice over the weekend, with the growers visited today having received close to 40 mm in the same period. In previous seasons a normal response would be to get more people on the orchard and get the fruit picked in response to this warm wet period but the workers, especially skilled workers are just not available. The smaller Summerfruit grower are starting to get squeezed. Partly because they are not there and partly as the apple growers are wanting to get their apples thinned by Christmas. There might be stone fruit left on trees as it will be too ripe to cope with the necessary logistics of pick, pack, transport and supermarket shelves. Interesting how much difference a week makes when you include warm wet conditions – we have gone from coping to feeling a little disparate and there is also a need to get on the sprayer again before the next wet spell.

I was told during last weekend, of a nectarine variety that had had three picks within a week and was now finished. Round and round with no breaks in between. Just as well the pipeline into the supermarkets had not yet been filled up. This harvest pattern may become the norm for a while if the weather patterns don’t change.

The point of the rant is to suggest that if you can spare fice minutes to lean over the fence, real or metaphorical and have a quick chat with a stone fruit grower, it will be most appreciated. Should you be able to share a worker or two that will be even more appreciated.

I see that NZAPI are providing another well-being webinar with Sir John Kirwan and the Mentemia team. This next one is about how to make the most of your holidays. I hope you were able to tune in and save the ideas for sometime next year when the Summerfruit season ends. I find these presentations valuable and the reinforcement of ideas even more so.

Along with the rest of the Summerfruit NZ team we wish you a relaxed couple of days off. I’ll be around to help if required over this period but the others are taking a well-earned break. Bring on the sunshine.

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