As a we start the harvest season in Hawke’s Bay, it’s interesting to have a handle on what’s happening in Central Otago. There has been a bit more rain than is normal but not to a level that cannot be controlled by normal orchard husbandry. There have been no significant frosts or hailstorms, but parts of Central Otago had a wind event that damaged a few bird exclusion cages. These were mostly older structures that were not built to rigorous standards.
Crop loads for Central Otago cherries are good for the early season fruit, and a little variable for main season production. That said, no shortage is predicted, as the moderate sets are not general but specific to some orchards and some varieties. Apricots have set a very big crop and have been heavily hand thinned. Peach and nectarine have full crops and will only require a touch up thin. The first Burlat will be picked this week or early next week.
Here in Hawke’s Bay, the cumulative effects of three wet seasons and a cyclone are still being felt. Blocks that were not affected by silt or flooding are not setting up full crops, and the same variety on the same orchard is exhibiting different crop loads. Affected orchards have varying degrees of set and tree health, and in many cases, it will take at least a season to come back into normal production.
Cherries are generally moderately cropped although there is variation. Apricots have bigger crops than last season but are not fully cropped. Peaches and nectarines are variable as well but generally not fully cropped either. Plums may be the exception, but more time is needed to fully determine where this crop will land. Continued tree deaths are being noted in those blocks that were directly affected by cyclone Gabrielle.
All summerfruit is still in the November drop, natural thinning period, across both districts so the full tale is not yet clear.
Growing degree days are normal or a bit below normal after a recent flat period, but accumulation should pick up with the heat that is being experienced at the moment. The dry period of recent times is welcomed with irrigation needing to be turned on and used where available.
Orchard cashflow will be helped if farmgate and retail prices hold up as per last season. Should the seasons remain constant across the two regions, with Hawke’s Bay on a lighter maybe earlier crop, and Central Otago on a heavier crop and therefore a little later, the clash between these two areas might be avoided as well.
Summerfruit Technical Advisor