Grower profile – Paul Thorne, Oakey Mountain Fruits, QLD
When Paul Thorne moved to the Redlands farm he now calls home over 30 years ago, the property already had custard apples growing. “But I was really unaware of their full potential,” he said.
The realisation of the potential success of custard apples only came several years after Paul moved onto his property, when he attended a custard apple field day on the Sunshine Coast. “It was there that I learnt how to hand pollinate, which is a technique that has been very successful for me,” he said.
Today Paul, who is president of Custard Apples Australia, is one of the few remaining growers who still hand pollinate, as the main variety of custard apples he grows is Pinks Mammoth. “If you hand pollinate this variety, you’re able to achieve quality fruit that’s highly sought after in the Asian market. This is why my main focus is exporting this premium product.”
Paul also grows KJ Pinks, a newer variety that he said has proven to be very popular because it self-sets fruit and is easier to grow. “As a result of the KJ’s popularity, we need to increase awareness of the fruit so we can increase the consumption when there’s abundant fruit available,” Paul said. “Custard apples are a beautiful fruit to eat and we as an industry need to encourage consumers to try them.”
Paul said that another key priority for the industry is continued research into pest and disease control and management. He’s also happy to see ongoing research into new custard apple varieties.
“I’m on the Strategic Investment Advisory Panel for custard apples, and I know that there has been a lot of research already, but it’s always interesting to ask what more we can do, where we can help, and what’s the best for the industry,” Paul said. “We’ve already achieved great results working with new red and green varieties, which looks promising for the industry. The breeding-focused work with DArT markers (Diversity Arrays Technology) will drive that forward as well as clonal root stock research,” Paul said.
“Another point of research that many growers find exciting is the trellis system of producing custard apples for a higher return.”
Paul said that while producing custards apples can be challenging, it’s very rewarding – and he sees that industry has a very good future thanks in part to its close-knit nature. “Growers are happy to share their knowledge and advice, because it helps us all in the long-term,” he said. “If we’re producing and supplying quality fruit to the markets and consumers together, it will result in a positive experience for all, which will enable the custard apple industry to continue into the future.”
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