‘We dodged a bullet’ – our cherries survive a wet and wild weekend

Orange recorded over 60mm of rainfall in just 48 hours over the weekend and while the dams are lapping it up, the same can’t be said for cherry growers.

SMILES IN THE SUNSHINE: Gaye and Borry Gartrell in their cherry orchard at Borrodell Wines near Lake Canobolas. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 1204MScherry

SMILES IN THE SUNSHINE: Gaye and Borry Gartrell in their cherry orchard at Borrodell Wines near Lake Canobolas. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 1204MScherry

Heavy rain just days out from picking season is a recipe for disaster, but compared to rainfall in parts of Victoria, conditions in Orange have left orchard owners breathing sighs of relief.

Caernarvon Cherry Co. director Fiona Hall said growers in Orange “dodged a bullet”.

“Because of cold weather and clouds and getting helicopters in we’re seeing only minimal damage to crops,” she said. 

Cherry growers often use helicopters and air blasters to dry off their crops. 

However, Mrs Hall said it was too early to tell exactly how much damage the crop received and is worried by more rain forecast. 

“Any follow-up rain is no good, but forecast is only for a few millimetres,” she said.

“We can deal with a few millimetres, but not another couple of inches.”

Borrodell Wineries owner Gaye Gartrell said the rain was “good and bad”.

“[Our crop was] certainly affected but, having said that the size increases and price increases so you know you balance one against the other,” she said.

“It’s not the end of the world.”

She said the conditions shouldn’t be too bad, and said she was hoping people would still come along to pick cherries at the winery next weekend when the season begins.

“It’s all drying off now and everything’s looking good but there’s more rain forecast and that worries us but okay, less cherries, bigger size, bigger price, there’s good and bad.

“We’re not panicking.”

Department of Primary Industry development officer for temperate fruit Adam Coleman said it was “too early” to tell the full effect of the rain but on a whole Orange was in “a good position”.  

“Orange was on the lower end of the rainfall … and that’s going to effect in a range of different ways.”

“10 to 20 per cent of the early crops will have been damaged by the rain.”

Mr Coleman said there was no way to tell which varieties of cherry would be impacted most, and each orchard would be affected in different ways.

We dodged a bullet because of the cold weather

Fiona Hall, Director of Caenarvon Cherry Co.

He said farmers had many methods to protect crops, including air-drying them from helicopters and trucks.

“I’m standing in a crop right now ... there’s no sign of damage whatsoever,” he said.