Growing pineapples is a labour of love done by farmers who have great deal of understanding about the plant and cultivation techniques, the unique combination of soil, climatic, drainage and topographic characteristics of their individual farm. PIneapple farmers work towards best practise guidelines for nutrient, pesticide and erosion management, have a range of business, marketing, managerial and leadership skills and the ability to report against food standard assessment criteria, as well as being able to operate a range of machinery and work strategically towards developing and meeting supply contracts that fall further into the future than most crops due to pineapples longer cropping cycle.
Growing 60 to 120cm high pineapples are characterised by rigid, grooved leaves, some varieties have sharp spines along the edge and pointed tips. Pineapples can be grown from the crowns or the suckers of the plant (not from seeds). Each plant will only produce one pineapple each fruiting season.
The parent plant's blue-green, sword-like leaves are arranged like a spiral staircase and its flowering stalk emerges from the centre of the leaf coil. These leaves retain their moisture making them a crop that can survive in very hot, dry conditions. The stalk has a cluster of flowers, which are purplish to lavender in colour, which appear about 16 months after the pineapple has been planted. Pineapples are a multiple fruit, which means they grow from a cluster of fertilized flowers that join together. The flowers are also known as the eyes of the fruit and there are approximately 150 on each mature pineapple.
After planting, pineapples take up to 2 years to be ready for harvesting. After a pineapple has been cut from the plant another fruit will start to develop called the ratoon crop. Once this ratoon crop is harvested the plants are usually mulched into the ground and the tops from previously harvested fruit (or slips that form within the original plants) are planted to begin the cycle again.
Pineapples are generally available all year round with the best value being from November to February. Major growing regions within Australia include South East Queensland, particularly the Sunshine Coast hinterlands, Maryborough and Wide Bay area, the Yeppoon district, and all the way up to Mareeba and Mosman in Northern Queensland.