With the rain continuing to fall and the temperatures staying low, we find ourselves in a tough spot as Pipfruit growers. Often in these times the day-to-day decisions become blurred and scrambled. However, as Sir Winston Churchill said during WW2, my message is to try and “KEEP CALM and CARRY ON”. As most of you will all be aware this is the wettest spring we have had in the past 50 years. Because of that we need to be well aware of how our trees are likely to react. In these orchard conditions there are certain aspects of growing we need to keep front of mind. Below are my opinions to try and help you make the best decisions on your farm.
To date this season we have seen high blackspot risk events. For our sins it seems to be never ending. It’s important to ensure forward covers are on and if needed you are ready to kick back. If you’re anything like me, you’ll now have up to 12 forecast apps on your phone. Keep monitoring these closely so you can make informed decisions.
Thank goodness one disease is low risk and with temperatures forecast to stay low, this is looking like a low fireblight risk spring.
The cards we have been dealt this spring are causing numerous russet risk events. It’s been cold, wet and frosty which is a combination of all three russet inducing weather conditions. Ensure you are doing everything you can to minimise russet with preventative chemistry (GA4+7) and good operating management, including spraying in good conditions with temperatures above 10oC and avoiding any slow drying conditions. Every year we treat varieties such as Queen and Envy but in 2022, maybe we should consider treating such varieties such as Fuji, Rose, Breeze, Rockit etc. at least with light rates.
2022 is certainly uncharted territory when it comes to natural fruit drop and the need for chemical thinners. Let’s think about what we do know:
- Roots are saturated and have been from day one. This will mean the soil macropores are full of water not air, and trees will be operating at half steam or less. This will undoubtedly lead to a large natural drop.
- Blocks that have a lot of flower open early may have had minimal bee visits, which will also lead to a large natural drop.
- Cloud cover has almost been continuous, day temps moderate and night temps moderate all conditions leading to a poor carbohydrate balance in the plant. This also leads to high natural drop.
For these reasons, very little primary thinning has occurred. We now have big guns we can use for secondary thinning if we need to. The most important part of chemical thinning this year is going to be walking your blocks. We are discovering that blocks are responding differently in terms of natural drop and overall stress. Make sure you are constantly walking blocks to get a good grip on the natural drop.
It is important you are ready to take advantage of narrow weather windows. My guess is labour weekend might be a busy time for us as growers.
Staff Moral and Mental Health
Working conditions on the orchard are tough at the moment. The mud is heavy on the boots and days are being lost due to rain. Hydraladas, platforms and tractors are getting stuck and nobody likes to see their orchards turn into furrowed fields. Now is a good time to roll out the hot sausage rolls, bring nice coffees and bikkies for smoko and maintain good communication. It’s often the little things that make a difference.
Jack Wilson – AgFirst