Australia Weather News

Colin and Suzanne Pickering said cold and wet conditions this spring has delayed their strawberry harvest. - ABC

While many producers across the state have started picking their strawberry crops, recent rain and cooler conditions have delayed harvest this year in central Victoria.

Suzanne and Colin Pickering run a berry farm in Harcourt North and said the cooler spring conditions had slowed the ripening of their fruit.

This time last year the pair were gearing up to pick a high yield crop.

"Last November was a fantastic November, we had over 600 kilograms which was a record," Ms Pickering said.

"As I look at the crop now, they're just loaded with fruit, but it's still not red."

Cold and wet conditions

Ms Pickering said continuous days of cool weather and rain had affected the crop.

And with the return of La Nina weather patterns this spring and summer, there are concerns for wet weather ahead for harvest.

"At the moment they look good, but if we have another rain when they are all ripe we could lose most of it," she said.

"In March, all the strawberries were ripe, we had a beautiful crop, everything was so red, then we got four inches of rain — it washed the strawberries and made them rotten.

"It was so disappointing to lose them."

Steep learning curve

In Rochester in central Victoria, grower Lindsay Horkings has also been hit by the cool weather.

This is his second season growing strawberries, and it's been a steep learning curve.

"We've had strawberries showing for a couple of weeks, but because of the cooler weather they're not 100 per cent, so we've been giving some to friends and not really selling any," Mr Horkings said.

"They were ripening too slow, the tip would become overripe by the time the rest of it was ripe."

Both the Pickerings and Mr Horkings are hoping for some warmer temperatures in the coming weeks.

"Twenty-five degrees is perfect for growing and ripening strawberries so we're hoping for some warmer weather to get going," Mr Pickering said.

Great conditions in the north

In northern Victoria, conditions are a little different.

Darren Hayes runs a strawberry farm in Koonoomoo, near Cobram, and has been picking for more than three weeks.

"The crop is excellent, the plants look extremely good. It's a good growing season this year," Mr Hayes said.

"There have been a few fungus problems that come with the cooler nights and wet days, but the crop is still sensational."

Usually at this time of year, people travel from far and wide for his pick-your-own strawberries, but COVID-19 has slowed business.

"At this stage things are still very quiet, but we've got quite of bit of enquiry for this coming weekend," he said.