THE opening of the stonefruit season last week was a proud moment for local growers, not only for the yearly harvest results but for the emergence of new varieties to extend the season. New varieties, which can be grown in warmer climates and do not require chilling to set buds, are providing earlier fruit for the market. According to Summer Fruit Council chairman Peter Gubler, these low-chill varieties allow consumers access to fresh stonefruit for six months, rather than just during the summer months. Low-chill stonefruit producer Vin Mazzardis, Gingin, said ideal growing conditions had enhanced the prospects for one of the best low-chill stonefruit seasons on record. "Warm weather and minimal rainfall have helped low-chill stonefruit growers to harvest some of the best quality stonefruit ever," he said.