PhD study puts the cherry on top

PhD candidate Cameron Stone’s work is helping Tasmanian cherry growers by comparing results from different protective covering systems.

Cherries absorb excess water from late-season rains, which can cause fruit-splitting.

Cameron is looking at the effect that different covers have on fruit quality and tree health.

“Producing the best-quality cherries is not as simple as putting a cover on,” he said. “Growers are keen to get more information about what the environment is like under the covered systems. I am looking at the role that humidity and temperature play in the overall quality of fruit.”

He is collecting weather data and measuring sap flow at Hansen Orchards in the Huon Valley as well as looking at the role different tree canopy shapes have on fruit quality at Reid Fruits in the Tasmanian midlands.

“The weather station and sap flow metres give me a good sense of the environment. From this data I can determine evapotranspiration – what’s coming in and going out – and how that effects the fruit.

“I’ll test the quality of the fruit at harvest by measuring parameters that affect cherry quality such as size, colour and of course that bit of crunch.”

The data loggers are taking measurements every 30 minutes on nine different trees, totalling more than 10,000 readings a month.

“On top of those sap flow readings, I also have the data from the weather stations and flower counts,” he said.

Protected cropping for high value horticultural production: effects of climate modification and growing systems using cherry as a case study is funded by the Hort Frontiers Leadership Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from TIA and contributions from the Australian Government.

The project is also supported by Fruit Growers Tasmania.

Source: TIA