Citrus Harvest and Cherry Harvest In November
With cherry harvesting time just around the corner, it’s an exciting time for patrons of Agricultural Tours Riverina. Seedlings have been planted, fertilised and irrigated, they’ve grown and now they’re ready for picking, packing and distribution to markets across Australia and the rest of the world.
The Citrus Life Cycle
The first stage of the citrus life cycle begins when a seed is planted and sprouts into a seedling. A citrus seed requires warm soil and consistent moisture to trigger its emergence from its dormant state. With the perfect conditions available, the seed may take anywhere from two weeks to three months to germinate.
Once germinated, the citrus tree enters its juvenile phase of growth. The juvenile phase of a seedling is characterized as the time it takes the seedling to grow into a young tree. In its juvenile state, the citrus tree does not produce fruit. Instead, it diverts its energies into growing extensive vegetation and root systems in preparation for its adult life. The citrus juvenile period can last between five and thirteen years.
You may wonder how citrus farms manage to stay profitable with such a long period of no fruit bearing. A lot of farmers will simply take saplings from adult trees who are producing fruit and graft these on to root stock. That way, when the grafted branches grow, they are already fully mature and ready to produce fruit. Most farmers, however, purchase juvenile trees from commercial nurseries. These trees have been grafted on to robust root stock. The newly planted trees are usually wrapped in foil to discourage root stock shoots, to encourage the tree to grow upwards rather than outwards, and to protect against the predations of rabbits, hares and other pests.
Regardless of the lifespan of the citrus tree, once it has grown to its mature adult stage it will begin to produce flowers and fruit. It will continue to do so for more than fifty years. The total lifespan of the tree may be longer than one hundred years. Various varieties of citrus crops are harvested almost every month of the year. A tree may have three generations of fruit on it — blossom for next year’s crop, this year’s crop and last year’s crop. While the fruit remains on the tree it does not deteriorate.
The Cherry Life Cycle
Like most commercial citrus varieties, the cherry orchard growing cycle starts from a sapling grafted onto root stock. However, cherry trees can also be grown from seeds found inside cherries following a cooling period equal in length to a Winter season.
Seeds that have been properly cooled, a process known as stratification, will take one to three weeks to sprout. The tree will grow to between four and six feet in the first year of its growth. The following few years won’t see any fruit growth, but will see growth at the end of branches – between six and eighteen inches per year.
Once the cherry tree has developed the necessary load-bearing infrastructure it will start to produce crops of cherries. This can take three to five years to happen. Both sour and sweet cherries begin to blossom in the warmer months of Spring and take a few weeks to mature. The cherry picking season commences in November. In order to ensure high quality fruit it is important that harvest occur exactly when the fruit is ready. Cherry orchards cannot use mechanical harvesters, so armies of pickers are required. For a particular cherry its prime on the tree lasts only 1-2 days. Cherry varieties are harvested, packed and shipped across the world.
Agricultural Tours Riverina can show you a wealth of natural beauty at one of the many citrus or cherry farms located across the Riverina region. Contact John Collins today to arrange a bespoke tour of one of our partnered farms. We’re in the process of arranging fruit picking excursions for our tour participants. You’ll be able to pick cherries, oranges and a host of other fruits when they are in season. Keep an eye on this space for more info regarding opportunities to pick for half a day and tour other rural products for the other half of the day.