CITRUS is set to bloom again in St George after a local grape grower decided to embark on a new venture.
Bounty Farms owner Nick Bligh currently has 4700 Afourer mandarin trees and 1000 Tahitian limes planted on his 35 hectare horticulture property, which was traditionally grape growing country.
While his only experience with citrus has been the trees he grew in his own backyard, Mr Bligh decided to further diversify his offerings and has been learning along the way.
The limes were planted in November and the mandarins in March and April this year with the first picking forecast from April 2019.
Mr Bligh expects to have 7000 mandarin and 1000 lime trees at full capacity with projected returns of $104,167 per hectare by the sixth year for prices of $2.50/kg.
The citrus will supplement the 20 hectares of grape vines, which are usually picked until the end of January, Mr Bligh said.
“They used to grow citrus here years ago on the river, maybe 30 or 40 or 50 years ago,” he said.
“I decided to plant citrus because I know they grow here because they grow in the gardens so rather than trying something that I wasn’t sure of I thought I’d go for citrus.
“It’s something simple and we chose the Afourer variety because it’s being exported at the moment so it should still be a good one for export.”
The new venture hasn’t been easy though, cockatoos and the hot summer put pressure on the plants in their early stages.
“The limes were knocked around with the very hot summer so they had a bit of a tough start (but) they’re growing better in winter now,” Mr Bligh said.
“Cockatoos have been a big problem, mainly chewing the sprinklers and they are getting the plants as well with a bit of ring barking just for the fun of it but they seem to have left us alone since it got cooler and we have a gas gun burning away.”
It comes after a mixed grape picking with average or above average yields were boosted by strong prices due to no clashes with Emerald or southern picking.
Mr Bligh’s citrus project was assisted by a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries grant program supporting a number of new horticulture production in the St George area.
DAF industry development officer Rebecca Morrissy said the program was established in 2015 covering Inglewood to St George focused on better water efficiency, particularly after water pressures from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
She said horticulture used half the megalitres per acre ratio that current crops did and also had export opportunities.
“It was looking at how can we be proactive about the water we have got and better use it rather than focus on the negatives,” she said.
“With horticulture you have got more labour in the area and opportunities for processing meaning a better economic value for the community.”