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Published: 3 Jan 2019

Tassie cherries are appearing in summer picnic baskets and fresh-fruit platters while the going’s good.

Our beloved short-lived fresh fruits could soon be available until Autumn thanks to a Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) research project.

Claire McCrory is working to extend the shelf life of sweet cherries for her PhD with the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products, located at TIA.

This summer Ms McCrory will follow the journey of Tassie’s Hansen Orchards cherries to Queensland.

“I’ll be measuring all the different storage and transport temperatures during the cherries’ trip north,” Ms McCrory said.

“Storage temperature is extremely important for the shelf life of fruit, and cherries are particularly vulnerable to temperature changes.”

Ms McCrory is figuring out how the supply chain, including temperature and logistics, affects cherry quality.

“The time between picking and cooling cherries is really important,” Ms McCrory said.

“They need to be cooled fast so they maintain that high quality that Tassie cherries are known for.

“Once hydrocooled and packed into refrigerated trucks, the cherries then travel across to the mainland on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry and continue by road along the east coast of Australia up to Brisbane,” she said.

It’s generally a pretty fast trip for cherries going interstate.

“The time from harvest to arriving in Brisbane can be as little as four days.”

So why Queensland?

“Queensland is an ideal cherry destination to research because of its hot climate and size. Trucks have to travel long distances to get to stores,” Ms McCrory said.

“To arrive fresh and delicious, cherries should be stored at a consistent 0.5 degrees.

“All this means Queensland is like a ‘worse-case scenario’ for our cherry supply chain. Temperature control is even more crucial and challenging,” she said.

Once the cherries arrive at their destination, Ms McCrory will look at the impact of local travel.

“The storage temperatures will tell me about conditions during the journey, but I’ll also check the colour of the cherry stems to figure out how fresh they really are after travelling so far,” Ms McCrory said.

“The deep red mahogany colour and lustre are indicators of quality, but green stems are an even better indicator that cherries are fresh as can be.”

Hansen Orchards are donating over 2000 kilograms of cherries to this research.

“People can’t get enough of Tassie cherries over summer, so I’m supportive of any research to keep them fresh for longer,” Hansen Orchards managing director Howard Hansen said.

“This research will also reduce waste, which is really important for such a highly-prized little fruit.”

Ms McCrory is also looking into different types of storage and packaging techniques that will enable cherries to better withstand small temperature changes.

This article appeared in The Examiner and The Advocate on 3 January 2019.