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Published: 7 Feb 2020

Cameron Stone in cherry orchard

Spend 3 fast minutes in the orchard with Cameron Stone and get the low-down on his undercover cherry operation.

PhD candidate Cameron Stone’s work is helping growers to produce the best quality fruit so that we can all get the satisfaction of biting into a sweet, crunchy cherry this summer.

Tasmanian cherries are in high demand – so much so that counterfeits have been created on the international market – and growers are looking at investing more into production to increase yield, quality and profits.

One way they are doing that is by using new covered systems to protect the cherries from damaging rainfall late in the season.

Cherries absorb any excess water that falls onto them and this can cause splitting late in the year, reducing the saleable product for the grower.

Cameron is looking at the effect that different covers have on fruit quality and tree health and comparing that to grower standards which are orchards under netting.

“Producing the best quality cherries is not as simple as putting a cover on,” Cameron 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.”

To do this, Cameron 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 has 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, which is always important.

“Then I am comparing that to the netted systems to give growers a clearer picture of the environment under the different covers.”

In rain, hail or shine Cameron has been out in the cherry orchard this season collecting a lot of data.

“The data loggers are taking measurements every 30 minutes on nine different trees, which is more than 10,000 readings a month,” Cameron said.

“On top of those sap flow readings, I also have the data from the weather stations and flower counts. Together this will hopefully give us a very full picture.”

Cameron has a background in agronomy and says he really enjoys helping growers produce the best quality fruit.

“Tasmanian cherries are held in high regard internationally due to their late season production, especially in international markets around the Chinese New Year period,” Cameron said

“I really enjoy helping growers produce the best quality fruit not only for them, but also for the consumer at the end of the day.”

“Both Reid Fruits and Hansen Orchards are at the very forefront in innovation.”

“No one knows their property better than they do and it is great to work together to try and answer the questions.”

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.

This project is also supported by Fruit Growers Tasmania.