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Introducing the UFO cherry growing system in New Zealand

In Central Otago, New Zealand, a novel approach to cherry cultivation is being adopted, shifting away from traditional methods. The region, known for its cherry production, is witnessing the introduction of the Upright Fruiting Offshoot (UFO) system, a technique that optimizes light penetration within the canopy to enhance fruit quality. This system, originating from the United States, involves planting cherry trees at a 45-degree angle and managing branches to maintain upright growth, facilitating closer row spacing and uniform light distribution across the canopy.

The adoption of the UFO system is part of a broader trend towards leveraging new technologies to improve productivity in the cherry industry. According to a recent report by the Ministry for Primary Industries, the industry is experiencing growth, with record export revenues and an optimistic forecast for the coming season. The report highlights the emergence of large-scale corporate orchards and a focus on innovation as key drivers of this positive outlook.

Earnscy Weaver, a cherry growing adviser in Central Otago, played a pivotal role in bringing the UFO system to New Zealand after learning about it from Dr. Matt Whiting in the United States. The system's trial in Cromwell demonstrated its effectiveness, leading to its adoption in several orchards across the region. The UFO system offers several advantages over traditional cultivation methods, including improved light harvesting, simplified pruning, and reduced fruit damage from rain and birds.

Complementary to the UFO, the Future Orchard Planting System (FOPS) designed by Plant & Food Research, advocates for even closer tree spacing to maximize efficiency. Weaver himself has implemented a blend of UFO and FOPS techniques in his orchard, contributing to the industry's evolving landscape. With ongoing research and innovation, New Zealand's cherry growers like Weaver are continually exploring ways to refine their practices and enhance crop quality.


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