Chestnuts ready to drop in Victoria as producers continue to tackle blight in industry

Rohan Whelan and his household have been rising chestnuts in the plush hills of Wandiligong for 25 years and says harvesting the nuts at all times reminded him of Easter egg hunts.

Coincidentally, they each occur across the identical time of the 12 months.

Mr Whelan is considered one of a whole bunch of growers in north-east Victoria, the place 75 per cent of Australia’s chestnuts are grown every 12 months.

He has about 200 timber on his grove, ranging from two years outdated up to 150 years outdated, producing up to 5 tonnes of chestnuts every season.

A smiling man with a short beard and brown hair stands in front of chestnut trees.
Rohan Whelan has grown chestnuts in Wandiligong for greater than 20 years.(ABC Rural: Annie Brown )

He stated chestnuts have been solely a small industry in Australia, nevertheless the demand was growing.

“The complete manufacturing of chestnuts has grown yearly since we have been rising,” Mr Whelan stated.

“There are much less locations in Australia the place chestnuts develop nicely, so in phrases of industry progress it is restricted to pockets of Australia the place it is appropriate for the timber.

“They want 1,000 millimetres plus of rain after which in addition they want good, chilly winters to go dormant.

“Being a deciduous tree, they want that correct winter chill.”

Battling chestnut blight

A woman in a blue jacket sits at an outdoor table with a large silver water bottle and folder.
Elke Jasper surveys 1000’s of chestnut timber throughout the state.(ABC Rural: Annie Brown )

Bio info update security officer for Chestnuts Australia Elke Jasper is on a mission to survey as lots of the 200,000 chestnut timber in the state.

Her job has been funded by an Agriculture Victoria grant to work in the direction of eradicating chestnut blight.

“I started off on my own however the job is huge, there are over 200,000 timber and we have finished 20,000,” Ms Jasper stated.

Chestnut blight is a bark-infesting fungus that kills the tree.

Ms Jasper stated Agriculture Victoria has invested in making an attempt to eradicate the illness since 2010.

“Overseas it has decimated the native forests in the USA, the American chestnut tree was introduced shut to extinction and there have been hundreds of thousands of {dollars} spent in rehabilitation applications.

“There’s a really actual threat of one thing like that occuring in Australia as a result of we haven’t any pure organic controls, so we’re actually individuals to catch it earlier than it spreads.”

Ms Jasper stated it was necessary for the chestnut farmers and the group to assist in the battle towards eradicating chestnut blight in Australia.

“It is necessary that you’re uncared for orchards as nicely as timber in gardens,” she stated.

“And for farmers, I’d actually like individuals to clear their sneakers and their gear, and planning their biosecurity measures.”

‘More like an apple’

Mr Whelan stated he aimed to harvest about 5 tonnes of chestnuts this season with the assistance of his spouse, youngsters and any buddies who have been courageous sufficient to contact the burr.

a large field surrounded by chestnut trees with blue sky visible.
North East Victoria produces 75 per cent of Australia’s chestnuts.(ABC Rural: Annie Brown )

“Anyone who has ever had something to do with chestnuts will keep in mind the burr as a result of they’re so spiky that in the event you get them in your fingers or if one lands in your head below a tree on a windy day, it is not good,” Mr Whelan stated.

One of the most important challenges with harvest is educating retailers and the general public about storing them appropriately.

He stated it was necessary to decide chestnuts rapidly as soon as they have been ripe and to preserve them cool after that they had been harvested. 

Chestnuts spikes
Chestnut harvest will go till as late as May in North East Victoria. (ABC Rural: Annie Brown )

“In the previous 20 years, most growers would now be getting their nuts off the bottom rapidly and storing them accurately.

“But generally you will see entire bins of chestnuts nonetheless out on show in grocers, after they want to be saved in a fridge.”

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