Mermele and Miles Barlouw from Rous Farm in Rous Mill prepare for a busy period ahead with the peach blossoms setting for the season.
Mermele and Miles Barlouw from Rous Farm in Rous Mill prepare for a busy period ahead with the peach blossoms setting for the season. Cathy Adams

Hoping for sweet harvest

BLOSSOMING orchards have Rous Mill stonefruit growers Mermele and Miles Barlouw hopeful their next harvest will make up for a disastrous one last year.

The 2010-2011 North Coast stonefruit harvest was all but destroyed by too much rain and subsequent diseases, such as brown rot.

And competition from southern growers didn't help either.

"Last season was quite a bad one," Mr Barlouw said. "The fruit developed late and then the fruit from the south came in early as we were harvesting, so all of a sudden the prices dropped."

According to Summerfruit Australia, consumer confidence was shattered last year because high rainfall left much stonefruit low in sugar.

While Mr Barlouw said the current winter has been "the worst" he's ever seen, the Barlouws' orchards looked promising at the weekend.

"It's just been cold with no wind and little sunshine coming to dry everything. But everything looks fantastic now, the bees have come and done their work and everything should stay good as long as we don't get that brown rot, which the rain brings in."

Brown rot is a fungus which attacks fruit and spreads by dripping onto other fruit below when it rains.

Two weeks ago, the Barlouws' orchards began blossoming and will be sprayed with fungicide from today until harvest in order to protect them against diseases.

"It needs a lot of spraying with fungicide," Mr Barlouw said.

"We'll be putting it on every week, spraying for blossom blight, thrips and stuff like that.

"You can never be completely sure things are alright until you start seeing the fruit."

The Barlouws have 800 fruit trees which, by October, will bear nectarines, white opal peaches and yellow peaches, weather permitting.



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