Technical Publications

Cherry Production Guideline

1. Background

Origin Sweet cherries are indigenous to parts of Asia and native to Europe and are found in the Southern part of Sweden, Greece, Italy and Spain. The first nation to cultivate cherries was Greece. In South Africa cherry production by commercial and small farmers is still rare. It is only grown in the Western Cape, Eastern Free State and Mpumalanga.

2. Climatic and soil requirements

Cherries require cold and long winter weather conditions with a long dormancy period of 7°C or below. Cherries prefer regions with a cool spring and a mild summer. The tree grows very well on a wide range of soil types and it requires good, deep, friable well drained soil with a pH between 5, 5 and 6, 5.

3. Uses

Cherries are marketed as fresh fruit and some are canned or processed as cherry jam, cherry brandy, cherry ice-cream and as syrup.

4. Cultural practices

Planting

Trees can be planted early in spring. Plant 1-year-old nursery trees. Naturally cherry trees grow very large, for optimum yield the fruit tree had to be planted far apart to allow for their full size. The spacing between trees depends on the rootstock, scion variety and growing region. The planting hole should depend on the root system. Cherries are susceptible to later frost; therefore the grower should plant on the higher parts of a sloping area. Generally tree rows should run in a north-south direction, to provide maximum light penetration.

Fertilisation

The soil must be tested before any fertiliser can be applied. The method normally used on application of fertiliser is the broad band method. The application must be about 30 cm from the trunk to the drip of the branches. Fertilisers can also be injected through irrigation systems [broadcast].

Irrigation

Cherry trees produce better with good irrigation scheduling. The amount of water needed varies according to the growing region, rootstocks, weather, time of season and management practices like composting.

Weed control

Weeds compete with the trees for water and nutrients. Competition from weeds can be a major problem for young trees. Weeds should be controlled, either mechanically or chemically.

Pest and disease control

A disease and insect control programme is essential to ensure productivity and high fruit quality. Brown rot and powdery mildew are problematic when harvesting in wet weather. Later in the season cherry leaf spot can occur. Bacterial canker is one of the major bacterial diseases. Crown gall, phythophtera and nematodes attack the root system. Pests that normally attack the cherries are bollworm and pear slug. Birds like the ripening fruit a lot and can cause great damage.