Richard Mills, Summerfruit NZ Market Support
Are there lessons from COVID that can be taken onto the orchard. Possibly there are lessons that can be taken from orchard hygiene and applied to our COVID lives!
Every morning I look out the window at my home orchard and walk through it on the way to my office, so know what growth stage is occurring. Most mornings I check the weather forecast and yet I still didn’t get a protective cover spray on before this 6 mm of overnight rain. I hoping now that it was too cold and not wet enough for long enough.
I pruned the trees late, sort of on purpose and therefore only knocked the mummies onto the ground recently. They have been mown a couple of times but have not yet fully broken down. For someone who has commented on orchard hygiene several times I should know better. We had PFR do this research work a few years ago, the findings were presented at the Conference and have been referenced often enough.
This week I am attending a field walk and presentation in Gisborne, organized by A Lighter Touch, where the subject is agroecology, what plants can we grow that provide food and shelter to encourage bugs to eat other bugs such as aphids and thrips? An option is to put flowering plants under the trees in the herbicide strip. One of the questions that keeps coming to the front of my thinking is how to sweep out all the fruit that is under the tree to the inter-row area so that in can be mulched when this is no longer a smooth solid surface. This is normal practice for some in stonefruit now, has been in apples and is certainly so in kiwifruit, and I’m thinking avocadoes as well. Is this a bit like a COVID vaccination, the disease will be still be out there but I’m less likely to get seriously ill? Maybe its more like the facemask idea of preventing the spread, or perhaps a bit of both.
Then I start thinking about the hygiene implications of that seedling tree on the roadside which a chainsaw could probably deal with, as well as the under-managed home orchard. Even worse the abandoned trees just down the road which might benefit from a chainsaw should the owner’s consent – a bit of firewood might be a sweetener.
The EPA has recently called for submissions on the use of glyphosate (Roundup) in NZ and whilst I don’t expect that we will lose the use of this herbicide, it comes back to thinking about understory plantings as an alternative, or using hay or wool as an alternative and then what the unintended consequences might be. I’ll ask the question of the experts whilst in Gisborne this week.
I’m still confused as to how we might move forward with abandoned trees, orchard hygiene, less herbicide use, understory planting and still make some money from growing fruit, but let’s see if that confusion is heightened or lessened by a field trip and a chat with the experts.
Have a look at this 3-page bulletin from Australian Almonds and in particular the idea of blowing around fruit and leaves. Carpophilus beetles also feature. Isn’t an almond the edible inside part of a peach rather than the outside? Not quite but close enough for these ideas to be worth looking at.