WA establishes a group to investigate a ‘biosecurity fund’ to protect the state against pest and diseases and delivers a submission to the HAL review, all while harvesting underway.
The long dry in WA continues with no rain to speak of for well over three months. From all reports, harvest has started well and the state is expecting good crops of Pink Lady™ apples and the club varieties, however sunburn does appear to be up on last season.
Through Fruit West, the Pome Fruit Leadership Group have agreed to investigate the industry’s ability to set up a biosecurity fund to increase the state’s preparedness for possible pest or disease incursion that is not covered by the national Plant Health Australia agreement. The Group will investigate which pests and diseases pose threats and what monitoring can be done to provide an early warning system. The Group will determine what activities the fund would cover and how much it would cost. We will keep growers informed of developments.
The HAL review has been an interesting process to be involved with. I found it particularly interesting that the WA stakeholder’s forum had the highest grower participation with six growers in the room, five of them avocado growers. It has been really important for levy payers and stakeholders to be involved with this review and whilst we often get sceptical about these processes it is important to be involved to elicit change rather than letting things continue just because that’s the way it has always been.
In our submission to HAL we indicated that we would like to see:
- Increasing efficiencies in project management and simplifying the administration and reporting requirements of individual projects.
- More transparency with regards to project funding. Whilst Fruit West has been encouraged by the recent changes to the IAC structures we would welcome further changes to increase transparency.
- An increase in support for extension services and activities.
- A greater appreciation of the regional focus that accompanies Voluntary Contribution funds.
- Improvements in communication through greater access of final reports to levy payers and stakeholders.
- Increased support for Peak Industry Bodies, if they are to be the primary means through which HAL communicates to levy payers then the PIBs communications capacity needs to be assessed and supported.
Industry Development Manager – stone and pome fruit
Rain has been welcomed by NSW apple growers to reduce heat stress before harvest.
All NSW growing districts have responded well to the beautiful rain that has fallen during February. Blocks that were suffering dry and heat stress are now looking a lot better. Colour and size have improved dramatically but maturity may be a problem for long storage.
Both Batlow and Orange have finished picking Royal Gala and are now moving onto Kanzi® and Red Delicious. The later varieties are now improving and it is fair to say a feeling of optimism is starting to creep into growers thoughts.
With the reduced crop the prices for good fruit have been very firm and it is hoped they will continue to improve as the year moves on. There has been a good supply of harvest labour available in both regions, making it a much easier job to harvest fruit on time.
With all this rain that has been excellent for the apples spare a thought for the grape growers who are having a battle with the dreaded botrytis. We all can’t be winners!
NSW Farmers Association
Rain and cooler weather is providing relief to growers following bird damage and extreme heat. Plus the new Horticulture Coalitions delivers a united voice for SA growers.
At the time of writing, the Gala harvest is nearly complete. Yields of Galas are well down on early forecasts due to heat damage and bird losses. Variable ripening in Galas has also proved challenging for picking, however there has been some good quality fruit in the later ripening areas. With colour improving significantly each week and a strong autumn weather pattern in place, growers are hopeful that the season will continually improve and finish well, with a good crop of Pink Lady™ and Rosy Glow developing nicely.
Pear harvest is well underway and will be completed by the time this goes to publication. Growers faced similar challenges with their early pear varieties with heat and birds, however the February rain and cooler weather has helped bring fruit up to size. Reports are of a reasonable crop overall, although there is variability between regions and growers, with some faring better than others.
With forecasts for hotter summers in the future and more extreme weather, it is clear that as in industry we need to take a close look at our preparedness for this outcome and put in place strategies to adapt.
With an impending election, the newly formed Horticulture Coalition, of which Apple and Pear Growers Association of SA is a member, has been very active, with the release of a Horticulture Blueprint for the next 10 years and strong communications with all sides of state government. It has been pleasing to see the level of reception and interest in a united voice for horticulture, as well as the strong cooperation and willingness to work together demonstrated between members.
Drought hits apple growers in Queensland, but over 60,000 people turn up to celebrate Stanthorpe’s Apple and Grape Harvest Festival.
Queensland’s Granite Belt was added to the list of drought declared regions last Friday, 7 March. The Southern Downs had been considered part of the lucky corner of the state with opportunistic and isolated falls during spring, but is now in the same dire straits as the 79% of Queensland that is drought declared. After average rain in November, the summer months of December, January and February combined with the first two weeks of March, have produced only 78.4 mm of rain in the Applethorpe rain gauge compared with the long term average for the same period of 309.1 mm. Temperatures and evaporation during the summer have also been above average. All apple orchards have been rationing their available water and using short cycle pulse irrigation. Unless significant autumn rain falls, orchard dams will be empty for the start of next season. Long range weather predictions are for lower than average rainfall for most of Southern Queensland.
While high temperatures and clear skies have contributed to sunburn and water-core issues, the dry weather has meant there is very little russet on most varieties. Many growers are delaying picking, where possible, to hopefully increase size of apples, particularly Granny Smiths. Most varieties are still early but as the season has progressed the timing of harvest is normalising with milder temperatures being experienced.
The biennial Stanthorpe Apple and Grape Harvest Festival held on 8-9 March attracted over 60,000 people to the district with most observers rating the festival one of the best ever. Ironically the only downside to the festival was some isolated shower activity, although most in attendance would not have minded being a bit wetter. In two years the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary since the original Apple Blossom festival.
Leader – Applethorpe Research Station
Qld Dept. of Primary Industries