Bumper peach harvest for northern NSW

Dry season a benefit to sub-tropical stonefruit production

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PEACHY: Jeff Zanette, Tullera via Lismore, NSW reports the best stonefruit growing season for years but competition is squeezing sub-tropical production.

PEACHY: Jeff Zanette, Tullera via Lismore, NSW reports the best stonefruit growing season for years but competition is squeezing sub-tropical production.

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The few remaining stonefruit growers on the Far North coast have seen the benefit of dry conditions.

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IDEAL growing conditions for sub-tropical stonefruit have NSW Far North Coast producers well-pleased with their harvest, now in its final few picks.

Tullera orchardist Jeff Zanette said his trees required little water so micro-sprinkler irrigation provided controlled amounts with the result that sugar content was high, producing fruit with flavour along with size and colour.

Controlling fruit fly, a major export market issue, was successful again using protein bait sprays and traps, returning the best prices in the last six to eight years after a long period of poor prices.

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"This probably resulted because of small quantities of fruit from other areas," Mr Zanette said.

"Reportedly Swan Hill had a late frost. There was apparently hail in Renmark last week. West of Stanthorpe there are some reports of removing fruit to save trees while others had small fruit due to lack of water."

US imports tend to dry up from the second week in October but there remained plenty of late fruit in cool storage and a bad peach can spoil a new season market.

The Wilsons Valley, north of Lismore, was the forefront of sub-tropical stonefruit activity when new varieties from Florida modernised the industry 40 years ago.

Good season for stonefruit.

Good season for stonefruit.

Now there are but a handful of growers, like Robert Hood of Bangalow who also recorded an excellent season but complained of ordinary prices and increased commission fees at the market.

With competition the traditional North Coast window has been squeezed to the point that a week of poor weather can have disastrous effects on profit.

"We've got a month's window up here," Mr Hood reported. "Yet prices are the same as what we were getting in 1990."

Poor season for the previous two years from hail and too much rain meant a reduced harvest, but after this dry year sales of product have doubled to more than 20,000 trays.

Mr Hood said his volcanic red soil property had the benefit of a creek and then, as it dried up, a bore, so water was not an issue. But the trees used only 40 litres at a time, or an hour's water about every five days.

"The secret is to not let the soil go dry and go off," he said.

"It doesn't take that much. Same with fertiliser - about 100 to 170 grams of slow release blend applied to each tree."

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