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My harvest: Ian Pearce, ‘Stoneleigh’, Orange, NSW

Ian Pearce with new season Pink Chief

As with other orchards in the area, and many northern growers, Ian Pearce battled a lack of water this season which impacted the volume of his fruit.

Ian and his wife Prue live on an 11ha orchard in Orange, New South Wales, where they grow Bravo ™ (ANABPo1), Kanzi ® (Nicoter), Pink Chief, Brookfield® Gala, Jonathan and Galaxy apples.

While several lessons in water efficiency were learnt, it is difficult to overcome a shortage as significant as the one in central New South Wales this year.

Silver linings, Ian said, came in the quality of the fruit that was picked.

“In summary, a bit of a tough season for us,” he said.

“It’s been a roaring drought, so a lot of our early-season stuff was impacted. We’ve run out of water, so our yield is down to about 40 per cent of what it usually is. The quality was okay – of the fruit that we actually picked, it wasn’t too bad.

“We retained enough water for trellis blocks and they were pretty good.

“We harvest Galaxy, Brookfield Galas, Red Jonathans and Bravo.

“The Red Jonathans were probably the best performing, they weren’t drought affected at all except for being slightly down on size.

“Bravos were good too, nicely coloured. Just this morning I got a call from one of our buyers saying about how the Bravo quality was really good, so that was nice to hear.

“Our Kanzis had cracks, and some of the others were also impacted. We just ran out of water.

“Around Christmas time we knew we were in trouble with water, so we tried to connect drip tubes. The roots couldn’t transition from the under-soil spray quick enough, but I think lessons learnt, we might do that earlier next year.

“We grow quite a lot of Galaxy and they were off before the coronavirus hit, so we were all good in terms of that.

“We grow cherries as well and it was a really good season for them, so I decided to use a lot of our water on those. As a result we didn’t quite have enough left for the apples.”

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