No short cuts to sweet success

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Berry Sweet owners Anthony and Lee-Anne Yewers have travelled across the globe in search of new ways to fine-tune strawberry production on their Bullsbrook property.

Producing 1.3 million Albion and Camarosa strawberry plants in poor beach-sand soil can be tricky, but with a good water source and adequate fertiliser, the Yewers have found they can flourish.

Growing up on his parents’ small commercial strawberry plantation in Wanneroo, Anthony said he had seen production evolve over the years only to see it become less viable by the day.

“Profit-wise it’s been hard the past two years with the cost of production going through the roof, ” he said.

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“Fertiliser, fuel, labour — costs are always going up. I’m averaging less now than I was 15 years ago.”

Anthony said becoming more efficient was vital, but it could only be done to a certain extent without cutting corners.

He hopes after incorporating the Albion variety into the mix will bump up production.

“We are always looking for something better and the Albion fruit eats really well, and for the whole season they are really nice, ” he said. “We are only just starting to learn how to grow them. We haven’t got the yield as good as Camarosa, but I think it has a definite place here, and we will plant more next year.”

Anthony said he was always searching for the next best thing, travelling overseas at least once a year to look at new varieties and different growing practices.

“We go overseas a fair bit to have a look at what everyone is doing, ” he said

“We just recently got back from the UK where we looked at different cloche methods.”

In winter they cover the plants with small cloches and soon will be trialling bigger walk-in type cloches to create less temperature fluctuation and more air flow.

“We are looking at bigger tunnels because you get better production and fruit quality, ” he said.

“Strawberries don’t like rain, that’s why we cloche them in winter so we can keep them warmer and dry.”

The Yewers have been using Integrated Pest Management IPM for about nine years and plan to be chemical free one day.

“We haven’t done a two-spotted mite spray for about seven years now, ” Anthony said. “It’s really good, we just put the predator mites in and they control them.”

Anthony said it cost more than it was worth to pack smaller fruit because consumers did not want them.

“We just have to throw smaller fruit away, there’s no point even packing them, ” he said.

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