Apple and pear growers met with scientists at the Regional Stone and Pome Fruit R&D Forum in Tatura, Victoria, to hear about the latest research and development for the industry.
The forum had a strong technical focus with 45 growers attending, as well as a range of industry service providers including local and interstate agronomists and scientists. It was a great opportunity to hear about the R&D activities of the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria (DEPI) and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), and engage directly with scientists.
Each presenter was given 15 minutes to present, allowing a large number of topics to be covered. DEPI also hosted an outside session with an orchard walk through their experimental pear and stone fruit blocks demonstrating the different rootstocks and intensive training system experiments.
DEPI researchers took the main stage presenting Integrated Pest and Disease Management with research in bio-control in Codling Moth, bio-control of Woolly Apple Aphid, improved trapping methods of Codling Moth and black spot modelling. On the topic of irrigation, DEPI’s Ian Goodwin presented methods on how to estimate tree water use of both apples and pears based on measuring the effective area of shade and evapotranspiration. The day also covered fruit quality improvement and consistency as well as managing climate variability and extreme heat.
A session on improving orchard performance featured TIA researcher Sally Bound, who discussed Artificial Spur Extinction as a management tool to improve crop load management and partitioning of resources early in the season. Artificial Spur Extinction is a process of calculating an appropriate target floral spur density and then physically removing the excess floral buds to achieve an optimal crop load. This process usually occurs in winter and saves vast amounts of tree reserves by not having to support excess fruit, which eventually would be removed anyway.
Not to be outshone, Nigel Swarts, also from TIA, presented the research findings from the apple fertigation and irrigation management trials that show the effect of the rate, timing and longevity of nitrogen fertigation on yield and fruit quality. Nigel is clearly passionate about his work, presenting a highly detailed account of his research showing how slight treatment changes affect fruit colour and size.
The highlight of the forum was the high calibre of the questions, indicating that people had a really good understanding of the topics.
Most of the research presented on the day was the result of the successfully managed Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils (PIPS) program led by Dugald Close at TIA. Starting in 2009, PIPS brings together multiple projects and disciplines under a single project. It is funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd (formerly HAL) and supported by APAL.