Growing fruit, we orchardists constantly have to manage variability in everything we do. We find ourselves constantly at the mercy of the weather, which at times can seem to have a greater impact on outcomes than our management and lead to unforeseen outcomes, sometime good, sometimes not so good. We try to limit these unforeseen outcomes by following recommendations, but variation in our management can itself contribute to unforeseen outcomes and where there is a combination of variable factors, this further complicates our task.
Most significant are variations between locations across the country as well as within each location. This is all before we get to differences between the blocks that producers work with daily. It is a lot to think about all at once: block ability, pruning, weather, spraying, nutrition, flowering, pollination – the list goes on. Spring is one of those challenging times of the year where there is a lot happening in the field and a lot of decisions to make; make a small mistake and not only could it burn you for the rest of the season, but you may have to wait until next season to try get it right again. What’s more, more than likely the game will have changed slightly between seasons making it hard to recreate the situation to test the outcome of an alternative approach.
We are always trying to understand the relationship between our decisions in the orchard and the results so we can improve our outcomes. It’s just like politics, where you’re always trying to figure out how to make your position more advantageous. This is something which can be learned, but only mastered over years of experience seeing things happening year after year. These are the challenges of working in an orchard, and most of the time they are challenges we enjoy. Ultimately, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
It has been extremely dry across the Queensland production areas over the last part of autumn and winter, and a high number of consecutive frosts were recorded. Recent rains have brought relief, although much of it has fallen over the bloom period creating difficult conditions for pollination and to work in. The effects of this will no doubt show later in the season, however the water was extremely welcome. The bloom progressed rather slowly, and it’s a little early to talk of what the crop is looking like, but the feeling is generally good.
The recent Future Orchards orchard walk included taste testing of Pink Lady apples and information on optimising fruit quality and was well attended. This was followed by an excellent barbeque lunch buffet in the orchard.