Cherries cheery despite the harsh and unpredictable climate

AMONG THE TREES: Ingrid Roth with a crate of freshly-picked cherries at Roth Family Orchard. Photo: Benjamin Palmer
AMONG THE TREES: Ingrid Roth with a crate of freshly-picked cherries at Roth Family Orchard. Photo: Benjamin Palmer

THERE might be precious few opportunities left to pick cherries in the NSW Central West if temperatures in stay high.

The Mudgee Guardian caught up with Ingrid Roth in the middle of one of her busy days she spends running Roth Family Orchard on her own, having just seen one of the busiest visitor days on record.

With trees nearly picked bare, how has the wildly-swinging weather and climate affected the orchard Ingrid and her partner Guy have owned for nearly a decade?

Ingrid said the extreme heat has the most negative impact on their cherry crop.

"The cherries don't last as well if they're picked when they're hot and it's going to be 41 tomorrow so we're trying to get all our cherries picked because that could cause some heat damage," she said.

"It's really important with cherries to pick them when they're cool. So we've been working hard on trying to educate the pick-your-own visitors to leave Sydney at 5am, not 7am and get here when it's nice and cold.

A sign at Roth Orchard instructing visitors to be mindful of how they pick.

A sign at Roth Orchard instructing visitors to be mindful of how they pick.

"We had one year where we had extreme heat and they sort of - the cells break down. They look alright when you pick them but they go to mush."

Despite the smaller crop, Ingrid says they consider themselves lucky they're able to still offer something for visitors to pick at all.

"We're closing the pick-your-own a bit earlier. One, for safety and two, for [the] cherries," she said.

"This year we are pretty light-on with our crop so we're more fortunate than some of our neighbours that we actually have a crop.

Freshly picked cherries from Roth Orchard.

Freshly picked cherries from Roth Orchard.

"The temperatures just go extreme. We had a frost and then we had 34 degrees with a hot wind. So that would have dried out the pollen."

Ingrid said she hopes things ease up a little considering how susceptible the cherries can be.

"We've had three back-to-back hot summers, and they affect bud development. So the weather from now through the rest of the summer will have an effect on next year's crop," she said.

"If it's like last summer that will be a challenge. This year and two years ago, most of Mudgee had a really small crop. Last year we had a good crop but then we lost it to rain, ironically."

The smoky Mudgee sky.

The smoky Mudgee sky.

Grower at Gulgong Cherries Niels Ringsing said they are pleased with this season but will too watch out for the heat in 2020 which could affect next year's crop.

"It's been a good quality, easy year for us. With no moisture we can control fungal growth, diseases and the water we put on them, [overall] it's been a very easy year to grow cherries," he said.

Gulgong Cherries recently added 16,000 trees to their existing 16,000 and Niels says they plan to add another 22,000 in July/August next year.

This story Cherries cheery despite the nasty conditions first appeared on Mudgee Guardian.