Winter—time to look at buds & plan activities

Written by   Ken Gaudion

Winter is well and truly here and has brought some good chilling.
Now that all the leaves have fallen, it’s a good time to look at cherry trees with a critical eye and to assess fruit bud numbers and quality.

This assessment allows us to plan what should happen to various varieties in the months ahead:
•Will some varities need pruning?
•How productive was each variety/rootstock combination last season, and how is that likely to affect production this season?
If we look back two years there might have been a lack of cropping in some varieties due to the weather (mainly a lack of chill). This may have induced more fruit buds to form in the season just passed. As a result, some varieties in some regions over–cropped—which meant many cherries were produced that were too small to be of economic value. So it is important to know which varieties need work to improve outcomes the next year.
Consider tree age & rootstock
Management decisions to improve outcomes are usually different for trees that are under ten years old compared with those that are ten to twenty years old.
They are also different for trees that are the same age and the same variety but on different rootstocks.
For instance, a variety on a precocious or dwarfing rootstock might need some of the thinner, heavily budded wood to be removed, and may also require extra fertiliser. However, that same variety on a standard rootstock might be productive the next season without much remedial pruning, and would probably be fine with normal fertiliser applications.
Try to plan for the unexpected
Cherry growers have much to contend with.
In a year with low production there are not enough cherries to satisfy demand. In a 'normal' year, peak production periods from each growing region seem to vary, making marketing difficult.
And in a heavy cropping year, peak production seems to overlap and adversely affect supply and price in the domestic market.
Export markets are developing but their success is subject to competition and the production of other southern hemisphere cherry producers; and the timing of sea and air freight into a destination.
We are also seeing politics (adversely) affecting trade. Decisions that are made outside normal bilateral trade agreements: things like tariffs suddenly being imposed or short term trade embargos.
So plan the next few month's orchard activities now, and adapt as best you can. That way you will be better placed to deal with whatever comes along.

See this article in Tree Fruit June 2018

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