Future Orchards Orchard Talk – What’s your plan?Industry Best Practice
For many growers and orchard managers, the upcoming season presents a number of challenges, particularly around reliable labour.
Yesterday’s Future Orchards® Orchard Talk discussed several ways to flatten the impact, including setting crop harvest goals early in the season, identifying what is needed to achieve those goals and how data, both historical and current season information, can be used to help with planning.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Have you identified the biggest challenge for your orchard business in the coming season, and how you will manage it?
For example, if labour is going to be your biggest challenge, there are several options you can implement now and still achieve a productive and profitable crop target.
Compare and prioritise your block profitability. If resources are stretched, is it best to focus on your best blocks? Options such as identifying your most profitable block and focusing on that, or thinning hard and early are presented as case studies by Jonathan Brookes and Jack Wilson from AgFirst.
Planning must be considered as part of a continuum – in addition to historical data, what we see and record throughout the season can help us make changes as we go along. AgFirst recommended that growers and orchard managers set small goals between now and the next harvest, and focus on the indicators and factors that can be managed leading up to each small goal.
“We need to understand what it is we are trying to achieve, and then take all the information we have available and build that information into our plans for what we want to achieve,” Jonathan said.
What’s your data?
100 per cent of respondents participating in the Orchard Talk poll indicated that they collected some type of data in their orchard – the way in which data was collected varied with the majority recording information in a spreadsheet. This data can be used to help make decisions.
The type of data that can be collected is large and varied. Most poll respondents indicated they collected information around key dates such as budburst and flowering, flower load and health, and the length of flowering time, as well as fruitlet load through the chemical thinning period. Many also reported collected information around bee activity and water availability and use.
Making data work for you
So, how can this be used to reach your crop harvest targets? The key points from the Orchard Talk included:
- Set good goals and objectives – what are your production targets for the season?
- Identify your inputs and plan – take the information you have available, and identify what you need to do to achieve those targets. What inputs do you need?
- What you know already – what data can you use to help with your planning?
Could chemical thinning be one of your labour and profitability solutions?
Ross Wilson suggests that “Your boots are your best thinner”. Walking through the orchard and observing helps make thinning operations more accurate – art versus science, some say.
Hear about the different chemical thinners and their characteristics in Ross’s presentation.
You can find other relevant resources in the Future Orchards library:
- Thinking about how to manage your labour? Use The labour decision tree
- Need a summary of chemical thinners? A chemical thinning refresher
- Want to learn how to assess your buds? Watch this video on Bud Analysis.
- View last year’s Virtual Orchard Walk about Managing your orchard in a global pandemic (2020)