Last month I reported that the retailers and wholesalers were overall, happy enough with the 2021-22 Summerfruit season. There was enough fruit but not an oversupply and prices at retail and farmgate were higher than the previous two seasons. Off course averages hide the top and bottom, the best bits and the not so good bits.
A couple of the factors that may have contributed to the smaller fruit volumes, were lower winter chill and poor pollination – the pollination being the luck of the draw, open flowers and poor weather at the same time.
As we move into spring there is enough soil moisture – good. Do we need any more, probably not, but the numbers tell us that we are about normal compared to the long-term average for winter.
Winter chill was not great last year, but ok I thought. This year the total accumulation is lower than last and the lowest of the last 5 years. Probably adequate for most of our peaches, nectarines and plums. The higher chill requiring apricots may have benefited from a dormancy enhancer (breaker) and we will see what happens with cherries in three weeks’ time. The few growers that I have talked to are saying that bud break timing this year is very close to what it was last season. The earliest of these is at shuck fall – we are under way.
Have a look at flower quality as we go through bloom, are they small or misshapen or of poor quality. If the timing is similar and flower quality looks ok then we are getting enough chilling. Another indicator of insufficient chill is a spread-out bloom. Is this good or bad? Good if the pollination weather is poor, not so good if fewer picks are desired. Tuck away these observations as a changing climate may necessitate a change in some of the growing methods.
Forecasters are suggesting that we may get another La Nina growing season – which would be the third in a row or a so-called triple-dip. For me that is the lasting impression of the 2021-22 season was easterlies and overcast skies with significant rain periods. Should that we the scenario at least we have some recent experience of how to cope as orchardists. More time on the sprayer.
I trust that we have learned some coping strategies from these last two seasons. Doing something off orchard on a regular basis. A game of golf, a bike ride, swimming, dancing or whatever spins your wheels. Take the time to look after yourselves and the staff and do me a favour; ask if I’m doing what I preach, because its really easy to just keep working. We know how to cope with weather, perhaps with a lack of staff but I come across growers and managers who are truly mentally exhausted.
Summerfruit Technical Advisor