Summerfruit May update

Posted By HBFA | May 22, 2024

A chance to indulge the inner orcharding nerd

LandWise held its annual conference in Havelock North last week. Sally Anderson, Summerfruit NZ’s research manager, and I attended. The focus was primarily on cropping (tomatoes, peas, beans etc) but the ideas and technology available cross over to tree crops, more often than not. While the toys and techniques have cross over, the recognition that we are all playing in the same environment, be that physical, legislative or consumer spaces, is just as important.

One of the free tools that was discussed is called Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ), developed by Cornell University. This is a grower support tool for measuring the overall impact of the sprays that are applied. It does this by assessing and giving a value to the potential effects on people and the food we eat, as well as on animals and the general environment.

The last A-Lighter-Touch (ALT) gaps meeting highlighted the huge amount of copper that stonefruit growers apply annually, in comparison to other product groups. As a result, this type of tool will help in understanding where we are at, and what then might be changed to help meet consumer expectations.

Other presenters spoke of the increasing global interest in products that induce, or up-regulate, plants’ own natural defence systems. We see this reflected in the global agchem companies buying biotechnology companies, thus integrating the knowledge of the smaller innovators and giving the innovators global reach.

A reflection of an integrated approach for bacterial control might look something like Actigard, followed by copper, followed by a bactericide, followed by AureoGold. During the LandWise presentations, we were told of the commercially available predators that are now available. To be fair, most of the progress has been made in the greenhouse industry but I suspect that it won’t stay there for too much longer. One of the lessons that’s been learned is that releasing two or tree species at once gives better control – much like using two fungicides to protect the efficacy of both.

The theme of the LandWise conference was Rebuilding Our Soils, a reference to Cyclone Gabrielle and the regenerative ag movement. Regen ag falls to some extent into the what the consumer wants type thinking. Regan ag has been in the pastoral/broadacre space for a while, with process crops now thinking about how the philosophies might be adopted. For permanent tree crops, we’ll need to think even harder about what changes could be beneficial. Of interest, McCains is now trialling paying growers a bonus for product that meets a number of biodiversity and environment markers. This circles us back to the EIQ tool, I talked about above.

Cyclone Gabrielle soil recovery work was reported on and a series of stonefruit orchards were presented as case studies. Much of this work is yet to finally tidied up, with one of the big questions being where to store the lessons learned so that they are readily available for the next time a storm of that nature comes visiting.

For the outside demonstration part of the conference, there were drones spraying crops, robots pulling weeders and sprayers, fancy lawnmowers, nozzle technology for travelling irrigators, and crimping rollers that might be used instead of mowers.

So as an industry, how are we fairing? Probably not to badly compared to some but we have a few areas that need attention. Many of these are being picked up by the ALT-Summerfruit NZ collaboration looking at softer chemistry, sorting out which bio stimulants might be efficacious, the understory plantings, and keeping a weather eye on market requirements. Keeping a weather eye on other product groups seems like an easy way to get some wins too.

In the vein of sharing ideas, we have a visiting expert in Hawkes Bay on Tuesday 2 July and an industry get together that same evening at Black Barn. Please see Prunings for more information. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible there.

Richard Mills

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