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Plumridge Orchards - Victoria

A good stonefruit crop set in Victoria despite some minor early season weather challenges

A Victorian stonefruit producer is experiencing a good crop set and sizing this season, despite an early season storm that caused some hail damage to some of its fruit.

Plumridge Orchards in Tyntynder South, in the North West of the state, grows, packs and markets peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and mandarins on its 44-hectare property. Owner Donna Carmichael says fruit ripening is occurring at expected dates, as well as a good crop set with enough to thin off without being excessive.

"Good rainfall throughout the year-produced good soil moisture for the trees. There's been good fruit size due to spacing and quantity of fruit left on the tree after thinning," she said. "However, a September storm produced small hail that caused a small percentage of damage to our apricots, nectarines and peaches that we harvested in November. There has also been a 'normal' percentage of Wind damage due to Spring winds. Disappointingly, there was a large amount of split stones in early nectarines and peaches. We believe this is due to the timing of our Spring rainfall at the fruit pit hardening stage. This reduces the amount of saleable fruit, and increases our waste."

Photos: stonefruit from Plumridge Orchards' November harvest 

Mrs Carmichael runs the family farm along with her husband Geoff, and during the harvest months, he operates the orchard while she operates the packing shed and manages the bookwork. Their son Gavin works on the farm during his University breaks, along with the addition of seasonal workers.

"Our on-farm packing facility offers us the ability to grade our fruit to our specifications and sell into the wholesale markets," she said. "We are fully accredited with FreshCare. All our fruit is sold in the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane wholesale markets for distribution to fruit shops throughout those states."

Stonefruit harvest commences mid-November and continues through until the start of March, and Plumridge Orchards generally colour pick each variety two times, and then have a final pick, with three days between each pick.

"We use a pressure tester to help determine the optimum time to pick," Mrs Carmichael said. "Our aim is to produce premium quality fruit with great flavour and colour. We mainly have peaches and nectarines but do have a couple of early varieties of apricots and later varieties of plums. We stagger our varieties throughout the season so we have a continual supply into the markets."

She added that the life span of a stonefruit tree for optimum production and quality is 10 to 12 years, so every year the Carmichael family removes the older trees and replant with new varieties.

"The stonefruit cycle begins in May with the pruning of the dormant trees," Mrs Carmichael said. "This takes about 12 weeks to complete. In October, we thin the excess fruit from the trees, we finish this by the end of November."

The company's Afourer mandarin harvest takes place in September, and Mrs Carmichael says production was down slightly this year because of drier than average conditions for the growing season

For more information
Donna Carmichael
Plumridge Orchards
Phone: +61 3 5037 6033