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Late-season cherries are ‘profitable opportunity’

Covering systems, pruning and varietal development offer late season opportunities for British growers, finds new Nuffield report

Late-season cherries are ‘profitable opportunity’

Angus Soft Fruits' Jan Redpath has produced a Nuffield report on cherries 

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Late-season cherries can be produced successfully in Scotland by replicating berry production techniques to extend the season, a new Nuffield report has found.

Produced by Jan Redpath of Angus Soft Fruits, the report is entitled ‘cherries: the late season opportunity’ and explored how soft-fruit businesses in Scotland expand into a niche market.

Key findings included that growers should “not be afraid to use specialised cherry covering systems”, and plantation layout and pruning should be decided from the first stages of tree formation.

“It’s vital to choose a system prior to establishing the plantation, with an end in mind at that point,” the report said.

Growers should also try to avoid mixing sources of advice and techniques during the formation years, and choose good varieties that work and can store well, rather than the very latest variety that may give inferior quality.

Redpath said he chose the topic because soft-fruit production in eastern Scotland has plateaued and growers are looking for alternatives in niche, rather than large-scale, production.

In addition, cherries are a short season crop across the world with most varieties only cropping for a three-week period, he said, in contrast to topfruit where storage techniques allow a 12-month season, and soft fruit where varietal development and growing techniques have led to a five- or six-month season.

As part of his report, Redpath visited Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, USA and the UK.

“Visits to Norway and Tasmania in particular showed that climatic adversity can be overcome with robust covering methods,” he said.

“Ongoing research in Europe and North America is likely to lead to better later varieties. I additionally noted that storage techniques exist that enable “not so late” varieties of known potential to give a safe option to season extension.

“Research and development in all regions I visited successfully demonstrates straightforward plantation and pruning arrangements that can give consistent results if adhered to from the start, and growers in any given region are never too far from being able to see examples of this in conditions similar to their own.”

“The study shows that there is a significant opportunity to extend the cherry season in the UK, and that this can be done both successfully and profitably,” he concluded.

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