Report on the Southern Vic Future Orchard Walk

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Future Orchards

Orchard Walk – Southern Victoria

A project called Future Orchard, which is run by APAL, AgFirst and Fruit Growers Victoria visited Moorooduc in Southern Victoria on Thursday, 4 Feb.  Despite the busy season, the event was attended by 30 people.

Future Orchards is a project designed to increase production, lower orchard production costs per kilogram of fruit, increase the percentage of premium fruit harvested and bring Australian orchardists up to international competitiveness in the domestic and export markets, holds regular orchard walks. Every orchard walk has different guest speakers with topic relevant to local production conditions. 

Presentations were held in the CFA meeting room at Moorooduc where growers had an opportunity to see interesting presentations from guest speakers, Dr Nigel Swarts, researcher from Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and Craig Hornblow, horticultural consultant from AgFirst, New Zealand.

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Nigel is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow and has a strong interest in the field of tree physiology and specifically tree crop nutrition. Nigel leads two collaborative projects on nitrogen management in tree crop production systems. Nigel’s presentation, “Precision fertigation for improved apple orchard productivity”, has given answers to different questions related to fruit nutrition such as: The effect of water stress and water surplus on N uptake; The effect of timing and rates of nitrogen application on tree uptake, fruit yield and fruit quality and The influence of fertigation on N storage and remobilisation.

According to Nigel “Precision apple tree nutrition requires consideration of many factors including irrigation requirement, crop load, tree size, fruit quality specifications, the soil’s capacity to retain and supply nutrients and minimizing off-site impact. There is potential to optimize nutrient inputs to improve fruit quality and shelf-life with attention to these factors”.

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Craig has been in the horticultural industry since 1985 and with AgFirst since 1995. Specialising in apples, Craig has travelled extensively throughout Europe and USA studying Dwarf tree management and chemical thinning. Craig is also strongly committed to grower education and regularly leads field days in New Zealand as well as overseas, bringing his audience the latest technical advances and good tree management techniques. Overseas travel has given Craig extensive knowledge of the apple industry and he has led several study tours in countries such as France, Chile, Italy, Germany, USA and Australia.

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Craig’s presentation was focused on Harvest Labour Management and covered different segments of harvest operations. According to Craig, to ensure financial sustainability of orchards, harvest management requires a combined focus on market acceptable yield (Perfection), productivity influencing costs (Production) and the people required to make it all happen (People). This relation has been presented in the form of stool: “If any one of these stool legs is not correctly managed the entire process is likely to seriously wobble or fall over”.

Presentations were followed by a visit to local orchard, Atlanta Orchards, owned and run by Mark and Jackie Paganoni. During the orchard walk, Petar Bursac, Industry Development Officer from Fruit Growers Victoria, who is responsible for running field trials, informed growers on progress of trials and presented some preliminary results. 

 FGVand Future Orchards logo