Attendance and engagement at the June Future Orchards® walks at both Orange and Batlow were excellent.
At Orange, local representation was strong and there were quite a few who had travelled from Bilpin, Blackheath and O’Connell.
It was great to see some younger faces at the Batlow walk, with a mix of owners, managers and staff attending. I left this orchard walk with a feeling that there is youthful enthusiasm building
in the industry. I’d like to encourage growers to continue to take their key orchard staff to orchard walks in the future as they can add a fresh and ‘hands-on’ perspective while gaining skills and knowledge that can benefit your business.
The June orchard walks marked the changeover point for the Future Orchards® Focus Orchards. I sincerely thank Fiona and Bernard Hall of Bonny Glen Fruits, Orange, and Donna and Ian Robson of Mount View Orchards, Batlow, for their involvement and contributions as the outgoing Focus Orchard growers. It’s great to have such industry-minded people as collaborators who have been willing to support local trial/ demonstrations and welcome other growers onto their properties.
We welcome our new Focus Orchard growers Prue and Ian Pearce of Stoneleigh Orchard, Orange, and Caroline and Domenic Pisciuneri (with orchard manager Darryl Watkins) of Seven Springs, Batlow. The June orchard walks were hosted at the new Focus Orchards.
A vital message that is coming through repeatedly at the orchard walks relates to speed of new canopy establishment. Because of the huge capital cost of establishing new blocks, growers can no longer afford to accept slow canopy development. Tom Auvil (United States) said it during his visit in November last season, and the message was repeated by visiting New Zealand grower Mark Ericksen in the most recent round of meetings. Their aim is to have full (or close to full) canopy establishment by the third leaf in the high-density dwarf trellised blocks. At Orange and Batlow many of our new blocks are taking more like five or six years to fill the productive canopy space. The cost of a two-to-three-year delay in production is too significant to ignore.
Keys to rapid canopy establishment include but are not limited to: optimum site preparation (including professional fumigation of re-plant ground); irrigation availability (and good soil
moisture monitoring) from the day of planting; appropriate fertilisation; early tree training and strategic pruning to encourage the right type of wood in the right place; and flower/crop removal for at least the first two (or maybe three) seasons.
Keep an eye out for details of the September orchard walks at Orange and Batlow. These will include a coordinated tasting session featuring locally grown Cripps Pink of various harvest maturities.