I’ve rewritten this piece a few times and it always seems trite considering what significant parts of the industry have been through and continue to deal with. So, lets keep this short and to the point.
From the Summerfruit perspective what has changed and what do we know?
- That there are fewer trees in the ground than pre-Gabrielle. This will impact particularly on the earliest to harvest volume.
- That young trees, silted or just wet are dying more readily than neighbouring mature trees. Wind throw appears to be a significant factor.
- Stressed trees are dropping leaves earlier than normal, perhaps by a month.
- Where there is no silt cap soils are draining and there is life coming back into them.
- There will be increased challenges with diseases as a function of a problematic growing season plus a cyclone and thus difficulties with orchard floor hygiene.
- Beehives have been washed away.
Despite all this there could be more fruit on the NZ market than there was last season, because of the low fruit set last season and trees responding with a full bloom this spring. Big fruit set then a big fruit drop and hand thinning bills is a possible scenario.
There were a couple of lessons learned from a localized flooding event in Central Otago three seasons ago where trees were in standing water for up to three days:
- Recovery to full cropping levels was not immediate. The trees needed a year to grow a new set of roots, and
- Bacterial diseases in the season following impacted on pack outs.
Spring is not so far away with early flowering apricots due in August. This is when we will begin to know what next season holds. To paraphrase John Wilton, ‘the best fertilizer for the orchard is the footsteps of the manager’. Observing the blocks regularly, with a consultant, or rep or fellow grower will, in my opinion, be hugely valuable. Make some notes.
What say we have a few small gatherings and share experiences of a difficult season, Cyclone recovery and blooms on trees in spring. My shout.
Summerfruit Technical Advisor