“WE just need the tap to turn off.” This is the sentiment of cherry growers across the state as they wait to see how their season is going to pan out after a drenching start to spring.
And they won’t have to wait long. Cherry Growers Australia president Tom Eastlake said NSW growers should know as early as next week what damage had been done by the deluge.
Mr Eastlake said the cherry season was set to begin in about a month in areas such as Young, Hillston and Narromine, with cooler regions like Orange to start later.
But even after flooding in the Hillston area, Mr Eastlake said the cherry harvest could still be good. “It will require very careful management, but even with the flooding, they might have a better season of it,” he said.
The sodden ground has caused issues, with growers finding it difficult to access parts of their orchards to apply fungicides, insecticides and nutrients to the trees.
But he said the flowering has been “enormous”. “We could have a thunderously large crop,” he said.
He expected prices should not be altered by the season. “I think with the way the crop is now, consumers will see prices they are used to,” he said.
The most important thing, however, was that the rain slowed up now.
“If it keeps raining, it will be a very expensive season to put controls in place,” he said. “We do need the tap to turn off.”
This was the challenge for Young growers Peter and Cath Mullany, Ballinaclash Orchard and Cellar Door, who grow a wide range of cherry varieties, as well as other stonefruit and wine grapes.
Mr Mullany said despite massive rains since July, it has slowed up in the past week.
“We’re all set up – we’ve got the water and the trees are healthy,” he said. “It is looking promising if it goes back to a stable pattern.”
But despite the challenges of wet ground and inactive bees, due to the cold, rainy days, Mr Mullany expected there would not be too much delay in the season.
“We usually start picking around Melbourne Cup Day. But this year it may not be until the 10th,” he said.