Industry Best Practice
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Australian growers produce the world’s best apples and pears year after year thanks to a combination of passion and technical expertise.
Technology gets much of the attention for how it is revolutionising orchard management, but every stage of the growing process is an important opportunity to improve fruit quality, from pre-planting through to harvest management.
A considerable portion of growers’ levy funds go into improving the productivity of Australian orchards, including APAL’s successful Future Orchards® program.
Explore APAL’s grower resources below on all stages of the growing process.
The apple and pear industry, like most in horticulture, face on-going biosecurity issues that challenge good business decision-making and profitability.
One of APAL’s primary responsibilities is to represent the biosecurity interests of apple and pear producers and the industry. This includes planning and implementation at a national level, liaising with federal and state governments on trade issues, and participating in national committees advising on biosecurity initiatives and emergencies
Agriculture is evolving fast. Consumer preferences for traceability, labelling requirements, export protocols, lengthening supply chains, and regulatory labour hire reporting have all converged and require growers to have a much deeper understanding of their business.
How can growers keep up? New technology means new opportunity, and smart data collection throughout the orchard can increase efficiency and provide the kind of traceability consumers demand. Orchards are increasingly becoming a multitude of interconnected systems designed to increasing picking speed, automate the packhouse, and much more.
New pome fruit varieties coming through the development pipeline are more often ‘club’ varieties, which means exclusive growing or selling rights are given to a limited number of orchards. In effect, this can provide growers increased promotional spend, control over the market life, and enhance the opportunities for increased orchard gate return.
Rootstocks are a key component of the modern orchard as they offer the grower various levels of vigour control, pest and disease tolerance, high quality fruit production, efficiency, and high density growing.
Growing in the twenty-first century involves maximising the efficiency of every tree in the orchard, so deciding on the variety, which rootstocks to use, and how to space them is critical to the eventual productivity of your orchard.
Grafting refers specifically to the process of joining buds of the desired variety with rootstocks that provide the correct tree vigour and pest and disease resistance. ‘Grafting over’ refers to the process of grafting buds from anew scion onto existing rootstock after cutting away the old tree.
Orchards require constant vigilance to maximise productivity. An important part of the growing season is on going pruning and training of trees to manipulate their growth. Pruning and training aims to maintain a high performing canopy that maximises the amount of high-quality fruit.
During winter, like all deciduous trees, apple and pear trees enter a natural state of dormancy. Growers have some control how the tree breaks dormancy in the spring with the use of dormancy breakers.
In spring, trees produce flowers that must be pollinated in order to produce high quality large fruit. Beehives are placed throughout the orchard to stimulate this process. Apples and Pears require cross-pollination to set high quality fruit and therefore blocks must be planted to ensure a source of alternative pollen is used.
Vigour refers to the rate at which trees grow new wood. High vigour can be beneficial when the tree is young, but once the trees allotted space is full, excess vigour is counter-productive. Managing vigour using a range of management techniques is also a critical component of fruit growing.
Each block of trees has an optimum crop load that maximisers the proportion of high-quality fruit. Achieving that crop load with pruning, chemical thinning, and hand thinning is also critical.
The modern consumer increasingly demands apples and pears of impeccable quality, that have optimum appearance, texture, and flavour. While Australia’s growing regions provide ideal conditions to deliver this quality, there is an increasing call to do more toward managing orchard harvest maturity, as a means of improving storability and consistency of eating experience.