Almost half of the cherry crop was taken by spring frosts
There were much fewer cherries this year, spring frosts took 40-50% of the crop, and due to the heavy rains of the past few weeks, many ripe fruits cracked.
The National Chamber of Agricultural Economics calls for a revival of breeding, varietal experiments, the space system, which was practically abolished in the early 2000s, and the development and use of cultivars that can withstand the changing Hungarian weather, instead of Mediterranean cultivars unsuitable for the local climate.
Cherry is grown on an area of about 2,700 hectares in our country. In terms of territorial distribution, the provinces of Pest and Heves stand out with more than 500 hectares of cultivated land, but there are also significant areas in the provinces of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg and Bács-Kiskun.
In good years, the harvest is about 12-13 thousand tons, this year experts expect only 50-60% of this. Significant frost damage has occurred in Transdanubia and between the Danube and Tisza, but the situation is not ideal in the east and south either.
This year’s cherry season has already begun with the early varieties. Damage is significant in the vast majority of production areas, but less loss is also expected for varieties that mature after mid-June. Buyers are typically looking for large, crunchy cherries over 28mm in size, and late-ripening varieties are available until mid-July.
It is unfortunate that the various experiments and the cadastral system were abolished in our country a few years after its accession to the European Union. Because of the latter, it is not possible to control whether suitable types and varieties of fruits are planted in a particular place, nor is it possible to make appropriate economic and technological proposals.
Unfortunately, the local fruit breeding profession has declined, it does not offer perspective to young people, most of them have left the field. Mainly Hungarian farmers had to import foreign varieties, mainly from the Mediterranean.
Today, however, the weather has changed so much that varieties should be able to withstand not only a warm winter, but also the variations of 15 to -10 °C that can happen in ten days – but the varieties currently in use are unable to do so. Thus, the damage from spring frosts increases every year.
NAK is launching a series of professional events this year, providing growers with relevant information on a number of important fruit varieties, preparing them for farm-growing tenders expected in the coming years. The first such event – on June 15 – centers around the cherry theme, as organizers want to direct growers’ attention not only to strive for early varieties, since these are at greater risk of frost, but also to focus on mid and late varieties. Moreover, heavy rainfall can crack ripe fruits, and on the other hand, plant protection costs can also be higher.
For cherries, a foil-covered grid can also help, for which state support should also be taken into account. This is because production safety can be greatly increased in intensive farms covered with a protective film against snow and rain, but the investment costs are high.
The installation of special nets to prevent insects in new farms may also be professionally justified, which increases the cost of investments.
Like this year, unfortunately, in four of the past six years, spring frosts have destroyed a large part of local fruit production (among them: apricots, peaches, cherries, and to some extent cherries, peaches, pears, and apples; affecting mostly early varieties). In collaboration with partner organisations, NAK has prepared a proposal on the steps that will be necessary to mitigate the risks.