Summer State RoundupsNews
Featured in the upcoming Summer edition of AFG, a representative from each growing state’s peak body recounts the state of affairs for growers in each region. Look for the latest edition of AFG in your mailbox early next year. Pay levies but not receiving the magazine? Contact us to secure your copy.
Nardia Stacy, Executive Manager, Pomewest
The South West corner of WA was hit with hail between 31 Oct – 1 November, the product of a sudden cold front. Susie Murphy White and I have been busy investigating the damage and measuring the impact. At the time of writing, it appears that this bout has mainly affected two orchards west of Manjimup. The overall impact to next year’s crop, we believe, will be fairly minimal as netting (both permanent and drape) appears to have protected most orchards.
It was heartening for us to receive such empathy from our counterparts in the east, on the news of our ‘hit’. We are particularly grateful for the support we received especially from the APAL staff and Susie Green, CEO of the Apple and Pear Growers Association of SA, who know only too well the devastation caused by hail. It’s also good to know that learnings are there for us to source if need be – a big thank you to those people who were on the phone checking if we were ok. All we can hope is this is all nature has to throw at us; spring weather can be so unpredictable.
This type of incident also proves that protective cropping can make a major impact, and has certainly made the difference in this case, which strengthens the case for the National Netting Program initiative.
Before the hail
Flowering was a week to 10 days early this year, with most of the bloom presenting in early-mid October. Spring conditions have been cool, and we had an average chill, however rainfall is less than desirable. This will not be a major issue for this season, however if the trend continues, the situation has the potential to affect supply in future seasons. Pollination and spraying opportunities for thinning came in time with some warm weather recorded in late October.
Susie Murphy White, our technical project manager, reports the opportunity to map ﬂower clusters on an ANABP 01 block was made easier this season at Ladycroft Orchard, Manjimup. A visit in October by Aaron Rodwell of Aero Vines, using the Green Atlas Cartographer™ (see below), was timely, and demonstrated an eﬃcient way to map clusters and identify differences between upper and lower canopies in the rows. Other uses for this technology may include fruit mapping in the future.
With the 2019 marketing season nearly over, we are excited to report that our minimum standards initiative this year has resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of WA Gala, Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples. Of the 113 samples collected at wholesale, 82.3 per cent of samples passed the minimum brix speciﬁcations. Of the 163 samples at retail, 85 per cent of samples passed. We are now looking to build on these results next season by further encouraging the supply chain to engage with and support this initiative.
APAL R&D Update
We were pleased that our WA-based project for Cold chain disinfestation and quality management of Bravo™-branded apples for market was chosen to be presented to industry at APAL’s recent Grower R&D update. The project, managed by Dr Francis Delima, is due for completion in mid-2020. The results of the data collected, we hope, will assist gaining access to currently quarantined premium markets.
By all accounts, the Pomewest apple promotion at the Perth Royal Show was a massive success. This year was one of the best on record due to the fabulous weather and the position of the stand in the regional agricultural display in the Centenary Pavilion. An estimated 10,000 people sampled the Bravo™ apple and we twisted our way through 5000 Bravo™, Pink Lady and Granny Smith ‘slinkiﬁed’ apples. This event would not have been possible without the support of Hort Innovation and we thank and acknowledge them for their continued sponsorship of this activity.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish the industry and stakeholders the best for the Xmas and holiday season and a prosperous 2020, on behalf of the committee and staff of Pomewest, and the growers in WA.
New South Wales
Kevin Dodds and Jessica Fearnley, Development Officers (Temperate Fruits), NSW Department of Primary Industries
Drought conditions have not changed in the last few months, with only a few rainfall events providing limited moisture for soil proﬁles. Lack of run off in the area means storage levels remain low coming into the start of the growing season. Growers are using skills and practices from previous droughts to help manage these dry conditions. With blossoming now wrapping up, growers are preparing for thinning to reduce crop load to combat the predicted ongoing dry conditions.
Work is now underway on the local Future Orchards demonstration trials, which include the use of mulch to promote strong growth in young trees and a fruit quality/crop load demonstration (Figure 1). Future Orchard fruit sizing commenced in late November with counts uploaded to OrchardNet for comparison. The Spring Orange Future Orchard walk was held on 5 November at the Orange Agricultural Institute.
Bilpin/Sydney Basin growers held their twice annual get-together in mid-October with around 16 growers in attendance from across the Greater Sydney area. These meetings were started approximately four years ago and are organised by Bilpin orchardists Bill and Julie Shields. The format is a casual meeting to share seasonal experiences and crop intelligence. These meetings are always “fruitful” (pardon the pun), as all attendees are made to feel like their experiences and opinions count. The meetings are a good model, demonstrating the value of grower-led events in the regions and we encourage growers in other districts to think about starting informal grower group meetings like these.
On the orchard front, Bilpin and greater Sydney have received reasonable early Spring rainfall, with some areas receiving up to 160mm of rain over a couple of events in September/October. Winter chill at Bilpin was reasonable at around 800hrs (or 80 chill portions).
Trees across the region are looking healthy and despite a variable bloom (in some places), overall fruit set is looking good. Fuji are reportedly light in crop this season.
Batlow growers report reasonably frequent rainfall events through September and October. Not huge falls, but still very welcome and quite well timed ahead of the Spring ﬂush. Monthly totals are still well below average, but the rain has been welcome and orchards are looking good at ﬂowering.
Bloom is strong across most varieties at Batlow, with the exception of Fuji which seems to be coming into an off crop generally.\
Woolly apple aphid (WAA) and pest mites were among the challenges last season at Batlow for many growers. WAA will receive some attention this season, with this pest being the focus of one of the district’s Future Orchards studies. A review of current knowledge is being carried out on the pest, including some ﬁeld monitoring of the biological control agents European Earwig and the parasitic wasp Aphelinus mali. The review is already yielding information that may help local growers modify spray programs to encourage the biological control agents in their orchards. Initial monitoring of European Earwig across four Batlow orchards (with varying levels of WAA last season), is already revealing big differences in populations of this key aphid predator. An outline of the ﬁndings so far was (at the time of writing) due to be delivered at the November Future Orchards event in Batlow.
Michael Crisera, Fruit Growers Victoria Ltd
Spring blossom has been patchy across the state, with the stress of last season impacting on this season’s fruit set.
The impact of last season’s lengthy heat periods and mite has impacted return crops for growers. This will be more accurately assessed in November– December. We expect crop forecasts to be down on last season, especially in apples.
Southern Victoria has fared better for winter and early spring rainfall than the Goulburn Murray region further north, which has had reduced rainfall, higher than average October temperatures, and reduced water allocations.
The pressure on temporary water pricing from corporate farms in the lower Murray system is reducing the ability of growers to generate a proﬁt on the back of two poor marketing seasons for commodity growers.
SPC’s new owners, Shepparton Partners Collective, met with the Goulburn Valley growers recently with news of similar processing intakes to last season to continue, and more focus on increasing exports. Processing prices will be made clearer at the end of November.
Fruit Growers Victoria (FGV) have recently had the opportunity for Steph Veskoukis from Melbourne University to commence her undergraduate student internship with us.
Steph has been an amazing asset to the FGV team and has been able to apply her knowledge acquired during the course of her degree to practical experience in the orchard.
FGV Conference 2020
Following the success of Fruit Growers Victoria’s inaugural conference held in 2018, we are delighted to announce that FGV will be holding another conference in 2020.
The second Fruit Growers Victoria Conference will be held on Thursday and Friday, 21 and 22 August, 2020, in Shepparton, with a theme of “Beyond 2020 – Orchard and Packing Technology”. The conference highlights will include keynote presentations, oral talks, exhibitions, networking events and ﬁeld day demonstrations.
Justin Heaven, Senior Industry Development Officer, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, QLD
With limited spring rain falling across Queensland, the dry conditions are continuing to present challenges for many producers in managing orchards with limited water availability.
Although yields across the Granite Belt are expected to be reduced this season as a result, early pruning and thinning strategies have been critical in maximising yield and quality of production. Cool spring temperatures have assisted with early fruit development and minimising tree stress. Despite the continuing dry, growers are reporting conﬁdence with the season ahead and are hopeful of early summer rain to ﬁnish the season.
The Granite Belt Growers’ Association (GBGA) held a tree crop drought survival forum in early September to discuss strategies on how best to maximise yields and fruit quality for the season ahead given the limited reprieve expected from the current drought conditions. The well-attended meeting was chaired by Stephen Tancred from Orchard Services, Stanthorpe, and covered a range of orchard management techniques. These included how to minimise tree stress at critical periods; pruning and thinning strategies to assist maximise production from available water; plant nutrition; the potential use of bio-stimulants in managing crop health; the minimum water requirement thresholds and milestones for key decision making. The event was well received by growers and provided the opportunity to discuss different management techniques in maintaining reasonable levels of production for the coming season. The Granite Belt Irrigation Project is continuing to progress with the Queensland Government providing a commitment of $13.6m towards the project, adding to the Commonwealth commitment of $47m and $23.4m from 53 local producers from across the Granite Belt. The proponents of the dam are continuing to work hard to ﬁnalise water entitlements and trading requirements to realise the full potential of the dam for the region and long term water security.
The Granite Belt Growers Group has been actively working with local Government in Southern Downs Regional Council to ensure local growers have the right to carry out normal farming activities in the region, with local apple producers prominent in reversing the proposed Noise Control Measures for Using Scare Guns. Local producers have also engaged in the council’s key initiative to identify projects and essential services that will help build agriculture in the region.
Scab-resistant apple selections evaluation
A new planting of 120 scab-resistant apple selections has been established at the DAF research station at Applethorpe. The new planting is a consolidation of the 40 superior selections from the stage 2 breeding evaluation block, and 80 seedling selections from the last remaining progeny block.
Twelve trees of each of the stage 2 selections have been planted to use for tree performance measurements and to provide larger quantities of fruit for evaluation and trials. These trees were planted in 2017 and will have a light crop in the 2019-20 season. Continuing drought conditions will have some effect on potential growth and cropping this season.
The last remaining scab-resistant breeding block contained 80 seedling selections that warranted further evaluation. The 80 selections were propagated on to M26 rootstocks to produce six trees of each selection for ﬁeld planting in August 2018. These trees have been established and trellised to enable tree training during the coming seasons. For more information contact Allan.McWaters@daf.qld.gov.au
Granite Belt producers attended State Parliament House in October for the Southern Downs promotional night with QLD apples showcased as part of the display, GBGA Vice President and apple grower, Nathan Baronio was on hand to promote the region’s best produce.
Michael Tarbath, Industry Development Officer, Fruit Growers Tasmania
Tasmanian growers have welcomed late spring rainfall in October and November after experiencing dry autumn, winter and spring conditions throughout 2019. This extended dry period has left irrigation and soil water reserves low in many parts Tasmania. Despite the low volume of rain during the 2019 spring season, growers have experienced a high number of cold, rainy days throughout spring.
This has caused headaches for growers as they try to manage protective and curative spray programs. Inclement conditions have slowed and extended normal ﬂowering patterns and negatively affected bee activity, causing pollination rates to be low. Despite this, fruit set is only a little below average due to high ﬂowering rates.
Despite the challenging spring conditions, growers were out in high numbers at the Tasmanian apple industry day on 7 October 2019. Hosted by R&R Smith and organised by Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT), the morning featured researchers from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) discussing aspects of production including nitrogen fertiliser management, plant growth regulators, post-harvest storage, and cider-making. Biosecurity Tasmania representatives and growers discussed opportunities for strengthening industry biosecurity preparedness and communications.
APAL’s Richelle Zealley outlined to growers the potential opportunities and beneﬁts of establishing a pomefruit industry discretionary mutual fund (DMF) in helping growers manage risks for cool stores, packing sheds and other diﬃcult-to-insure structures. Richelle also gave growers an outline of APAL’s new national Future Business program, including upcoming Risk Management events in Tasmania and interstate.
The day concluded with an engaging presentation on Pollination by Trevor Monson of Monson’s Honey & Pollination. Drawing on his experiences as a pollinator and bee-broker in Australia and abroad, Trevor discussed all aspects of pollination, including hive location, methods for encouraging effective pollination, and the implications for Australia’s apple and pear industries if the exotic bee parasite Varroa mite reaches Australia.
Susie Green, CEO, Apple and Pear Growers Association of SA
At the time of writing, growers in South Australia are nervously waiting with ﬁngers crossed to hopefully get through the rest of spring without a signiﬁcant hail event.
Cold weather through August and early September slowed down bud burst, which was shaping up to be early through winter, but ended up around normal timing, or slightly later than in recent years. Return bloom and fruit set has been mixed, with some growers who carried heavy crops for the previous two years reporting a lighter set this year and others reporting a good crop load. Growers are now busy with their secondary thinning programs.
After a very dry summer and autumn, winter rains were below average and water storages are largely a bit down on what we would hope for, particularly with the forecast for a dry spring. Weather conditions have been quite warm, but interspersed with cold fronts, which have brought light showers but no major rain. While we are better placed than some other growing regions in Australia, growers will be looking to manage their water very carefully for the season ahead.
Apple and Pear Growers Association of SA held our Annual General Meeting and dinner in October, with more than 60 in attendance. This was an opportunity to reﬂect on another very busy and challenging year and celebrate the resilience of the growing community in South Australia. The committee of Ashley Green, Joyce Ceravolo, Michael Stafford, Tony Ceravolo, Matthew Flavell, Jody Schultz and Time Vickers will continue on for 2019/20 and all are hoping for a more positive year ahead.