In a new HAL-funded project, AgFirst is going to assist the industry capture data on varieties of apples and pears planted and their productivity.
Knowing what proportion of Australian orchards are already planted and being planted to different varieties of apples and pears and their productivity, will help growers and the industry better plan for the future. HAL has recently approved funding for the ‘Apple and pear industry data collection project’ (HAL project number AP130350) to capture data, create an online Tree Registry database and produce a robust industry crop estimate in 2015.
“Getting a grip on our basic tree data is fundamental to giving us the information we need to make decisions about the industry and take action to ensure its profitability long-term,” says John Dollisson, CEO of APAL.
“Participating growers will get the immediate benefit of being able to benchmark their own orchard statistics against other orchards both within their own state, and Australia-wide.
“This will help growers know how their tree plantings compare to others and if their tree performance is in similar, better or worse shape than that of other growers. It may also help us discover where there might be a future under-supply or over-supply of different varieties.
“Once we know this we can better plan for the marketing of our fresh fruit – both domestically and overseas – and the overall development of the industry.”
Building on existing data
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) used to conduct a broad survey on the industry that included production numbers and tree counts broken down by varieties, but the survey was cancelled after 2008 due to costs.
ABS’s current data publication on the industry through their Agricultural Commodities Survey is largely inadequate for any detailed supply-side analysis. The hope is that the Tree Registry project, with participation and inputs from growers, will help to paint a clearer picture of the productive capacity in the industry.
Online Tree Registry
The project will see the development of an online system for collection of industry tree data including tree plantings by variety and state called the Tree Registry. The Tree Registry is expected to be available in September 2014 on the APAL website.
The target is to get tree statistics for 90 per cent of the Australian planted orchard area entered into the Tree Registry. Captured statistics will include variety planted, area planted, tree density, tree age and root stock.
While grower participation will be voluntary, the success of the project relies on grower involvement. The project is paid for by growers through the apple and pear levies because it has been identified as of high importance to the industry and can provide valuable information for individual growers too. In particular it will be important that all large-scale growers participate because it is estimated that 70-80 per cent of the crop is produced by 10-20 per cent of growers in each region.
Growers will be offered assistance to enter data where it may be required.
Here to help
Most growers are already familiar with AgFirst who deliver APAL’s Future Orchards® program. New Zealand’s Ross Wilson from AgFirst, who was recently in Australia to present at the southern series of the Future Orchards’ walks, and Richard Pentreath, another of AgFirst’s horticultural experts in NZ, will manage the project. They will join forces with Jesse Reader, now with AgFirst in Australia, and a bunch of local consultants based in each growing region to facilitate the collection of data here.
The local consultants, people that you will likely already know from your growing region, will be available to help growers enter data to get a good representation of the industry.
APAL’s role will be to support the project including by hosting the Tree Registry on the APAL website and facilitating broad communication with all growers about the project to encourage participation and use of the data.
Richard explains that growers will be able to print or download a summary report for their orchard tree statistics, which will be a useful reference document for planning and orchard development purposes.
“Once entered, it will be easy to update your statistics on an annual basis by accessing the online database,” says Richard. “After you enter your statistics, you will have the ability to easily compare your variety mix and tree age against both state and national averages.
“Updating your tree stats annually should be part of your annual business plan, an accurate understanding of variety mix and tree age is essential for planning future development.”
Additionally, growers will be helping build a valuable and robust industry data set that will help develop the programmes needed to support future growth and development.
Other outputs of the project include a statistics annual including current plantings and production, the establishment of a grower panel to help generate industry crop estimates, an industry crop estimate for 2015 and, eventually, an industry mapping resource connected to the Tree Registry database.
Once the Tree Registry is up online, it will be very easy to participate and enter data. Growers will just need to log onto the Tree Registry following the link provided and creating a password to access the site.
To prompt your involvement, all APAL grower members and apple and pear levy payers will be contacted by APAL to enter their own data. Growers who cannot enter data themselves for any reason can contact the local consultant and request assistance. The contact details for local consultants will be provided in the email request or you can contact APAL anytime for help.
Richard explains, “When you receive your email request, please follow the simple instructions provided and enter your tree statistics after logging onto the Tree Registry.”
Only growers on the APAL database will be set-up in the Tree Registry so please provide APAL with your contact details if APAL does not already have your details.
Find out more
Stay tuned for the announcement of the launch of the Tree Registry via APAL’s Industry Juice e-newsletter. If you are not already getting Industry Juice subscribe here.
For more information on the project please contact Jesse Reader at email@example.com or 0419 107 245.
This project is funded by apple and pear growers through the apple and pear levy administered by Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL). It will be managed by AgFirst with the support of APAL.
This article was first published on 1 September 2014.