Richard Mills, Summerfruit NZ Technical Advisor
Last season was difficult, whatever we were growing in Hawke’s Bay. Spare a thought for the likes of the onion and buttercup squash growers in what was a difficult, wet season. For all of us getting clean paddocks and orchards needs to be a priority before spring returns. The last thing we need is retailers complaining of high wastage rates due to rots that established early season, after the gains we have made this season.
The other area that is thought-provoking at this time is winter chilling. My instinct is that leaves were slow to fall, as is witnessed by some apple trees which still have reasonably full canopies. ‘It has been mild’ has been a comment heard more than once. But what are the numbers telling us? As of 14 June, at the Longlands site, we have accumulated 231 Richardson Chill Units, compared to 251 this time last year and 375 in 2018 which was the highest of the last 5 winters. The 80% of a full crop just gone was talked about as being a reaction to those lower levels of chilling. True or not I don’t know, but in theory there should have been sufficient with over 1000 RCU’s by the end of August. That should be enough for all of our crops including cherries.
Now I start thinking climate change, perhaps dormancy enhancing products, low chill varieties and different rootstocks for the longer term. That last comment is a bit alarmist but is the sort of question we do get asked as an industry organization from time to time. What are your plans?
At the wider industry level, we have had a series of SummerGreen meetings around the country in Blenheim, Alexandra and here in Havelock North a month ago. The presentations will be on the Summerfruit portal in a while and included;
- Results of trials to determine the PHI for Movento. This is significant for us in that it will give options for the control of sucking insects to replace OP’s and carbamates when they are withdrawn from use, and it is this first off-label product that will be on our wall charts. A tech sheet is being developed.
- The results of the understory, herbicide reducing, biodiversity increasing work were presented. Its still early days on this project and early summer will the time to explore the orchard responses. This project is gaining a bit of interest from stonefruit growers as well as other growers of other crops. If you are interested in some work at your place let’s have a chat. There may well be some funding to get us started.
- Other items presented included a report of the refresh of our R&D strategy, and the use of the Find-A-Pest app. All of us being able to use this tool is one more plank in our biosecurity network. If you haven’t gone there yet, please do. Abigail from F-A-P left me with a few magnifiers which attach to your cell phone to aid taking quality pictures. I’m happy to bring one out, have a cuppa and discuss industry stuff.
- A report on the retail and farmgate prices for the NZ market. Generally, the numbers were higher than last season. Is this increase a new normal, can we sustain it or was it merely a reaction to a lower crop load?
Summerfruit Technical Advisor