After a cold and wet start to the stonefruit season, a Victorian grower is expecting great fruit with higher yields for consumers this year.
Foster Stonefruit is run by a husband and wife team, Brad and Lisa Foster, that grows and packs stonefruit and citrus in Beverford, near Swan Hill in Victoria.
"The rain, cold weather and flooding in our area definitely impacted our early fruit," Mr Foster said. "The weather has since gotten warmer, which has put us on track to supply some great fruit for the summer season. We are expecting a higher yield this year, due to some younger trees coming into full production. We grow mandarins, nectarines, peaches and plums. We started with 50 acres of stonefruit and have been packing our own fruit for around 15 years. We have grown to 200 acres, that's about 45,000 trees and a larger packing facility over these years. We have a strong focus on providing a quality product."
The company harvests mandarins in August and September, with stonefruit picked from November until the end of February.
Mr Foster explained that just like other fresh produce, there are many different varieties of stonefruit, for example, there are around 20 different varieties of yellow nectarines on the farms. These varieties are classed into Classic or Subacid groups, with Subacid being the sweeter of the two. He says when deciding what to plant, they put in many hours of research and testing to select the best variety to grow commercially, for the consumer.
"We look for taste, size, colour and crop production when deciding what to plant," Mr Foster said. "The majority of our crops come from California breeding programs, so we try to get to America every two years to see the crops ourselves. A lot of hours of research go into making these decisions. We have more yellow and white nectarines than any other lines. Our yellow and white peaches are harvested from November to December, and we go through with nectarines, both white and yellow, as well as plums up until the end of harvest."
Foster Stonefruit supplies both domestic and international markets, and Mr Foster says the company is always looking for new markets here in Australia and overseas.
"This year we will be exporting to Vietnam for the first time, now that market access is available," he said. "Demand this season has been quite high so far domestically. I think taste, price, weather and availability drive domestic demand."