English cherry production is moving into the hands of specialists and the season is becoming later, said Don Vaughan of research body the Farm Advisory Services Team.
Unproductive acreage is being grubbed up and replaced with dwarf trees for easier picking. These are being covered in nets to protect against weather and bird damage.
Crop sizes are increasing as growers switch to higher-yielding varieties, said Vaughan. “The average production with older varieties was 1.5 tonnes per acre, compared with the six to seven tonnes achieved now. Some growers are also investing in hydrocooling, dipping warm cherries into cold water after picking, which enhances quality and increases shelf life.”
Vaughan said there was also a trend towards producing later varieties such as Sweetheart and a new East Malling-bred variety called Penny. These were helping competition with Turkish growers, who are bringing their season forward to overlap with the end of the English season.