Most of Ricardo Aguilera’s cherries are varieties from Canada.
Ricardo Aguilera explains his growing techniques in a block of Sweetheart cherries on Colt rootstocks planted in 2006 .
Ricardo Aguilera, owner of the Sociedad Agricola Valley Verde, focuses on late-season varieties in his orchard at Angol, which is in one of Chile's most southerly cherry-growing regions, south of Los Angeles (Chile). Of his 45 hectares (112 acres) of cherries, 95 percent are varieties from British Columbia, Canada, including Skeena, Lapins, Sweetheart, and Staccato. Bing accounts for less than 5 percent of the orchard, and he is thinking of grafting the trees over because of low production. He's also thinking of replacing Lapins with Skeena, which is a firmer and larger cherry.
He's pleased with Sweetheart on Colt rootstocks planted in 2006 as sleeping eyes on a three- by five-meter (10- by 16-foot) spacing. Branches are tied down, and tree height is limited to 3.2 meters. The trees are pruned after harvest to remove the strongest growth. Aguilera has had difficulty controlling vigor in older blocks with rows closer together.. In his first block, planted in 2002 on CAB 6P rootstock, the accumulated yield was 40 tons per hectare (16 tons per acre) by the sixth leaf.
He harvests Sweetheart between December 27 to January 5 and Staccato from January 5 to 12, after Chile's peak production period ends. He's interested in planting more of the late-maturing self-fertile varieties, including Sovereign or Sentennial, which ripen after Staccato. Last season, the average price he received was around U.S.$3 per kilo ($1.50 per lb).
The trees are on Colt rootstocks in a fertile soil, and he has battled vigorous trees in older blocks. He uses no fertilizer, but makes foliar applications of micronutrients. He aims to produce no more than 12 tons per acre in order to produce the quality necessary for shipping to Asia.