Cherry Growers of Australia represent the biosecurity interests of cherry growers and the industry.
In 2016–17, cherry production was valued at $133 million (LVP), with exports valued at $43.3 million. The industry produces more than 15,000 tonnes of cherries every year,
of which 40 per cent is exported. This is expected to rise to 20,000 tonnes by 2020 with
up to 50 per cent exported.
Cherries are produced in six states, with NSW, Victoria and Tasmania being the three largest producers followed by SA. These four states have a strong export focus. WA and Queensland are relatively small producers primarily focused on the domestic market.
Australian cherries are available from mid to late October until late February. The window of supply in each region is determined by the varieties grown and the local climate.
The cherry industry is increasing its production and moving into new areas. Recent market access to key Free Trade Agreement markets such as China and Vietnam have given mainland growers unprecedented opportunity which until now has been the exclusive domain of Tasmania with its fruit fly free status. As of 1 January 2019, every major market serviced by Australian cherries, except India, will be tariff free.
This improved market access has resulted in an increase in the number of growers registering for export in the 2018–19 season, with approximately 90 Australian growers (>2,000 hectares) registered for protocol markets.
Cherry (Prunus avium) flowers have a single pistil surrounded by about 30 stamen and five petals. The ovary contains two ovules. Flowers that are not pollinated soon fall off the tree.
Although the flowers may stay open for up to 5 days, the stigma receptivity of some flowers begins to decline as the flower opens. It has been reported that the earliest flowers that open will produce the highest quality fruit. Most cherry cultivars are self-incompatible. Pollination occurs by insects, with honey bees the most important.
A study in Victoria demonstrated the importance of honey bees as the primary agent for pollinating cherries. Trees caged from bees had a 2 per cent fruit set, as compared to uncaged trees exposed to the activities of honey bees which had a 35.9 per cent fruit set. The yields were 1.9kg/tree for the caged trees and 35.2kg/tree for the uncaged trees. It was also observed that 97 per cent of the insects that visited the cherry flowers were honey bees.
Honey bees find cherry flower very attractive because they are able to collect both nectar and pollen. Pollen foragers are likely to be the better foragers as they usually have more pollen on their bodies. They normally enter cherry flowers by climbing though the anthers and so even nectar gatherers have good stigma contact. Whether the extra pollen carried will increase pollination significantly is unknown.
Feeding sugar syrup to colonies has been shown to increase cherry pollen collection and may increase pollination, as it should increase the total number of bees visiting the crop, as it does for other crops such as kiwifruit. Although 2–3 hives per ha are usually used for cherry pollination, it is recommended that up to 10 honey bee colonies per hectare be introduced for effective pollination.
Additional fact sheets and web links about the pollination of this crop are listed below. Please be aware that some of the information was developed overseas, and environmental and seasonal variations may occur.
Cherry pollination fact sheet, The Pollination Program (Agrifutures Australia and Hort Innovation)
Honey bees in cherry and plum pollination, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Australian cherry production guide, Cherry Growers Australia
Cherry pollination, Michigan State University
Honey bee pollination of fruit tree crops, Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Pollination of fruits and nuts, Purdue University, Indiana
|Annual value of cherry production 2007–17|
|Distribution of cherry production by state and territory 2016–17 (based on LVP)|
The pollination information is an excerpt from Mark Goodwin (2012) Pollination of Crops in Australia and New Zealand. Agrifutures Australia Publication No. 12/059
The industry overview and graphs on the value of production and crop distribution are from the National Plant Biosecurity Status Report (2018), Plant Health Australia, Canberra