Wow, 2022 is not going to go down as a vintage harvest in the Hawkes Bay. Two significant depressions in the month of March have dropped a lot of rain, there have been more harvest days lost than normal, and crop volumes and packouts are well down on budget. With the final harvest push, maximize as many of your remaining apples as possible, as although the harvest has been extremely difficult, the markets particularly in Asia, are seeking lots of high-quality NZ apples.
Right about now, you not only need to focus on the remaining 2022 crop but be planning to maximize 2023. Immediately post-harvest, the pest and disease focus needs to go onto ensuring good canker and phytophthora control. Ensure pesticide applications are appropriate for the risk and well timed. Walk the high-risk canker blocks and physically remove canker as autumn leaf scars are a major site of new infection. Autumn nutrition applications should also be confirmed addressing each blocks unique needs as dictated by previous soil and leaf tests.
With the 2022 harvest outcomes fresh in your mind, write down the management inputs that need to be better in 2023. Ask the questions, was crop load too heavy or too light, was vigour too high or too low etc? Confirm your 2023 targets early, so right from the commencement of pruning, you have a plan to farm to, with many key management inputs agreed and diarized.
With the fruit growing game changing rapidly, e.g. cost of production and shipping increasing, start thinking about your long term strategy: permanent and casual labour demand and supply, variety mix, planting systems, mechanization, platform ready canopies. Aim to have a medium-long term strategic plan committed to paper.
Fruit growing has never been easy and in the last 12 months its complexity and challenges have gone up 10-fold. Many of you, I know, are seriously questioning the pathway forward. Keep in mind that NZ is one of the best microclimates in the world to grow apples, our industry is well structured, and NZ’s market access is the best in the world. We do need to continually evolve and change with the market, but NZ fruit production has a bright future, if we make smart decisions and execute at all levels with excellence.