Challenges of the cherry crop in 2022: a race against time
Biostimulation and specific nutrition: opening the doors of the Asian market to Chilean cherries.
Giving fruit as a gift is not meaningful or relevant in most countries, but in China it is quite the opposite; especially, if we are talking about cherries, an essential element for the Chinese New Year. The New Year’s tradition consists of gifting fruit which carries a meaning of success for the future. Cherry is one of the most important fruits to give as a present because of its red color that represents abundance and prosperity.
The 2022-2023 cherry season brought a few challenges. The Chinese New Year was celebrated on January 22, 2023; this means that harvest was required to be carried out before the period from December 9-15, 2022 for it to be on time (considering that it takes 40 to 45 days of travel by boat to the destination). Moreover, the state and quality of the product must be kept; this leads the farmer to face a challenge with no place for mistakes in the search for an almost perfect fruit.
The Asian market is demanding with products that come from the countryside: cherries’ color, caliber, firmness and flavor must be at its best possible in order to ensure its sale within the region. The lack of any of these points in the produce can translate into a great loss of money for the farmer.
Chile is the most important producer of cherries in the Americas and it is within the top 10 largest producers worldwide. Chile has been able to increase its export volume to more than three times in less than eight years; this by using 67,570 hectares for this crop and by exporting 93.9% of the production to the Far East which is Chile’s most robust market.
Thanks to the efforts of Algas Pacific, in alliance with Acorganica, we have succeeded in bringing the AP Method to this search for the best cherries. An average increase of 6% in production has been achieved in addition to an increase of calibers, notably those for export (calibers from 26mm to 32mm or higher): a result of good biostimulation and specific nutrition. Among other parameters to be highlighted are: more homogeneous color, firmness, shelf life, and an increase in Brix degrees, which are required and requested in exports to this region.
Biostimulation is a strategic benefit that should be considered in the handling of cherry trees since it can activate plant metabolism at crucial stages: sprouting, seedling’s development, floral induction, active root growth, harvest and postharvest.
During the sprouting stage, NPKelp provides carbohydrates that favor both thermoregulation and the use of stored nutrients. In addition, it has been proven that the application of NPKelp and CopperKelp increases the concentration of potassium, calcium, and copper; it improves resistance to temperature and provides support by activating the crop’s defense mechanisms, becoming a great tool for the control of diseases caused by fungi and bacteria.
Blooming stage is a decisive one in cherry trees and it is therefore sought that flower clusters have the most homogeneous opening possible, reducing the blooming time, which requires a great consumption of energy. This is where the application of NPKelp provides carbohydrates and natural phytohormones which allows the reduction of energy wear and increases cellular division for better sized calibers. Likewise, at this stage, there is susceptibility for fungal and bacterial diseases; on account of that, CopperKelp applications help mitigate the appearance of such pathogens.
Two main processes occur at the setting stage. First, root activity starts; this is why the application of ZnKelp and Kelproot is recommended. These products will improve and increase the concentration of root hairs to better the nutrient absorption required for fruit filling. The second process is related to the setting stage. This process is highly susceptible to temperature changes, and at these stages, there is a risk of late frosts that can result in the loss of partial fruit set and in the worst case scenario, a complete loss. In this regard, NPKelp and CopperKelp applications reduce the likelihood of fruit loss due to late frosts.
It is at the stage of pit hardening where the caliber that the fruit can have is defined. For this reason, early and appropriate biostimulation with the application of NPKelp and CopperKelp helps achieve the ideal conditions.
At the color changing stage, a good biostimulation is needed both by root with the application of Kelproot to help with the absorption of nutrients for the best fruit filling -increasing essential nutrients, potassium (K) being the main one-; as well as biostimulation via foliage by means of the application of NPKelp and CopperKelp in order to reduce stress caused by high temperatures, hence, avoiding the partial dehydration of the fruit which causes microcracks and the likely inoculation of fungi and/or bacteria.
In this 2022-2023 season, our customers managed to harvest in a timely manner for this Chinese New Year. In some cases, harvest was early up to 15 days compared to the 2020-2021 season in the sectors Costa de Curicó, Maule region, Seventh Region of Chile. Between 16-20 thousand kg/ha were harvested with export fruit between 90%-97% and with calibers ranging from 50% to 70% higher than 30mm even though they were harvested mostly in red color.