PIPS Orchard Productivity Program (AP09031)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Originally this program was established to increase efficiency within and assist sustainability of apple and pear orchards. It was due for completion at the end of 2014, when a two-year variation was granted to extend specific work into artificial spur extinction (ASE). As such, the current focus of AP09031 is on tree structure as it aims to develop the ASE technique as a crop-load management tool. By selectively removing buds to imitate natural bud extinction, ASE can be used to precisely determine where and how much fruit is set on trees.
What’s the latest update? Analysis of data from the first full year of ASE work with apples has been completed. Preliminary findings, which are expected to be confirmed during the second season, include that…
- Under ASE management, the proportion of flower clusters setting fruit was higher than in conventional management, with a greater number of multiple fruit per cluster
- Return bloom on ASE-managed trees was lower than in conventionally managed trees – however as there are fewer buds on the ASE trees, this was to be expected
- Fruit size under ASE management was improved compared with the conventionally managed trees
- In Gala apple trees, fruit shape was improved under ASE management
- The ASE-managed trees did not respond to chemical thinning.
Of note, a video demonstrating ASE has been produced and is available to view here.
ASE was also demonstrated at a hands-on field days and walks towards the end of 2016, while an article, ‘Are chemical thinners really necessary’, appeared on p22 in this issue of Australian Fruitgrower.
An ASE demonstration session, held in Ranelagh, Tasmania as part of project AP09031
Profitable pears: maximising productivity and quality of new pear varieties (AP12002)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Underway since 2013, this project is investigating management techniques and physiological mechanisms to increase the profitability of growing pears. It uses an experimental orchard (the Pear Field Laboratory) with new red-blushed pear varieties developed previously under the National Pear Breeding Program, and is producing results that will impact on orchard irrigation, rootstock and cultivar selection, planting arrangement and tree training.
What’s the latest update? There are many ongoing avenues of research under this project. Recent activities have included:
- The development of grower guidelines on young tree management for the new red-blushed cultivars (Lanya, Delixa and ANP-0534). The Pear Planting and Management Systems for New Blush Pears orchard management guide includes information on planting arrangement, rootstock selection, tree training and pruning, as well as irrigation and the use of plant growth regulators. It will be available to industry shortly.
- The continued collection of data to validate and parametrise ‘SPASMO’. Originating from New Zealand, SPASMO (the Soil Plant Atmosphere System Model) is a tool that can be used to predict tree-crop water and nitrogen use. A range of experiments are feeding into its validation for use in pear orchards.
- Continued work to evaluate the use of remote-sensing tools and platforms in measuring tree nitrogen status. So far, remote sensing using a multispectral camera is showing a good relationship with leaf-tissue analysis of nitrogen. There is also work involving unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to provide a platform for remote measuring of nitrogen status.
The project also continues to produce resources for growers, including videos of tree training and pruning, and there has been continued touring of the experimental orchard. View project-related videos here.
Physiological, metabolic and molecular basis of biennial bearing in apple (AP15002) and Physiological, metabolic and molecular basis of biennial bearing in apple – Australian component of AP15002 (AP15013)
Status: Ongoing projects
What’s it all about? Biennial bearing is a major constraint to apple flowering and production, and it’s estimated that around 30 per cent of commercial cultivars are susceptible. While this cropping irregularity is usually managed by chemical, mechanical or manual thinning methods, the underlying physiological, metabolic and molecular plant processes are largely unknown. Beginning in 2016, these two related projects aim to increase understanding of the mechanisms involved in flowering time control of apple crops.
What’s the latest update? As part of project AP15002, last year there were two field trials established:
- One involving the Spencer Seedless cultivar, at the Horticultural Research Centre of the University of Hohenheim in Germany
- One comparing a biennial cultivar (Fuji) to a non-biennial cultivar (Royal Gala), at the Centre of Competence for Fruit Cultivation near Lake Constance in the Alps.
The trials are designed to identify factors that either suppress or promote flower induction in apples, looking specifically at the roles of plant hormones (signals from developing fruit), gene expression and carbohydrates. During the 2016 season sampling and analysis has taken place, but as yet there are no reportable results.
As part of the Australian component, AP15013, there are field trials in a commercial orchard setting in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. Here there is study of biennial cultivar Nicoter (Kanzi) and non-biennial cultivar Cripps Pink (Pink Lady), similarly looking at the effect of gene expression and metabolic signals on flowering, in response to plant resources, plant development, cultural practices and environmental cues.
Read more about both of these projects in this article from a recent edition of Australian Fruitgrower.
Spencer Seedless apples ready for analysis as part of project AP15002
Integrated pest and disease management – phase 2 (AP15001)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? This project follows on from the industry’s previous integrated pest and disease management project. The original work resulted in approval to import and release the Mastrus ridens wasp as a biocontrol agent against codling moth in apples, to supplement pheromone-mediated mating disruption of the moth. This second phase will see the release of Mastrus ridens into sites in Southern Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria for study of the wasp’s dispersal, predation and hyper-parasitism.
What’s the latest update? To date, field releases of Mastrus ridens have occurred in two orchards in Stanthorpe, Queensland, and in two orchards in northern Victoria. Monitoring of the wasps’ activity and parasitism is continuing in these orchards. Mastrus ridens is known to seek out hibernating coddling-moth caterpillars, laying eggs in the cocoon. Upon hatching, the Mastrus ridens larvae feed on the caterpillars.
The project is also investigating the potential toxicity of pesticides to Mastrus ridens. Two pesticides commonly used to control codling moth – Avatar (300g/kg indoxacarb) and Altacor (360g/kg chlorantraniliprole) – and new pesticide Cormoran (80g/L acetamiprid + 100g/L novaluron) have so far been tested. Altacor and Cormoran appear to be harmless to the wasp at the registered application rates, though Avatar appears to be toxic. Studies continue, and testing of other products will take place as the population size of the Mastrus ridens laboratory colony grows.
An orchard trap modified to hold bands containing codling moth larvae, to in turn monitor Mastrus ridens activity
Improved tree and fruit nutrition for the Australian apple industry (AP14023)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Research into optimising nitrogen-use efficiency has the potential to boost productivity in apple growing. This project will develop a multi-season nitrogen budget underpinned by fertigation research, and in turn produce a user-friendly decision-support tool to assist growers across the country in optimising irrigation and fertigation application.
What’s the latest update? There are a number of activities under this project, working towards a common goal. In a nutshell, work is focusing on validating an international research model for predicting tree water and nitrogen use, and then using this as the basis for the grower-friendly decision-support tool.
- The technical model. Multi-season nitrogen trials have been running in Lucaston, Tasmania, to help validate and parameterise the ‘plant’ aspect of New Zealand ‘SPASMO’ model for use in apple orchards. As described in previous projects, SPASMO (the Soil Plant Atmosphere System Model) is a tool that can be used to predict tree-crop water use and nitrogen content of leaves and fruit. Combined with data from a range of other trials for the models other aspects, the researchers report that SPASMO is now generating reliable predictions of water use and nitrogen content. Work continues.
- The grower-friendly tool. Based on SPASMO, the project team is progressing with the development of ‘SINATA’ – the Strategic Irrigation and Nitrogen Assessment Tool – which will assist growers and advisors manage water and nitrogen resources. The tool is expected to allow growers to input their soil type, local climate and tree information to determine average irrigation and nitrogen requirements. It will also allow growers to assess the efficiency of current management practices, and answer ‘what if’ questions (for example, it may allow the financial outcome of switching practices to be assessed).
National apple and pear grower communications program (AP15007)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Now into its second year, this program ensures apple and pear growers are kept up-to-date with the latest industry news, information and R&D updates. Its ultimate goal is to support the industry as a whole to advance and grow, to allow informed decision-making in apple and pear businesses, and to facilitate the uptake of new practices, technologies and information.
What’s the latest update? Delivered through Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL), the project continues to produce and maintain key communication channels, including but not limited to:
The project is also involved in the production of media releases, has delivered media training to industry representatives, maintains an industry photo library on image-sharing service Flickr (available here) and produces ‘hot topics’.
Review of the Biosecurity Plan for the Apple and Pear Industry (AP15003)
Status: Near-completed project
What’s it all about? The identification, prioritisation and management of key biosecurity risks – through review and implementation of a biosecurity plan – are critical industry biosecurity preparedness activities. Through biosecurity planning, this project is helping provide the apple and pear industry with the framework for risk mitigation and for managing the impact of potential pest incursions.
What’s the latest update? Updating of the industry’s biosecurity plan continues, with the project expected to be completed early in 2017. No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Spring 2016), though during November last year industry volunteers were begun to be recruited to attend an Industry Biosecurity Plan Implementation meeting. Being held in Melbourne during February this year, the meeting was to help determine the highest-priority pest and disease threats based on current information produced under the project, and to discuss how they can be mitigated.
InfoPome 3 (AP15008)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? InfoPome is the apple and pear industry’s stock tracking system. Cool-store data is voluntarily provided by growers and collated into national reports of the amounts of apples and pears in cool-store by month. The reports are separated by variety and state, allowing growers to see stock levels currently available in storage. Supply of this data (and analysis reports drawing out critical messages) allows informed decisions about sale prices and volumes to be sold.
What’s the latest update? InfoPome reports continue to be produced as usual, with the new automated, weekly system launched towards the end of 2016 (as described in the last edition of Hortlink). The weekly reports and analysed findings are available to those cool stores that have contributed to the data collection, and provide a timely snapshot of the stockholding status nationally, by state and by variety. To supply data, cool stores receive automated SMS and/or email messages containing links to enter their stocks. A free InfoPome app is also available for iOS and Android.
Understanding apple and pear production systems in a changing climate (AP12029)
Status: Near-completed project
What’s it all about? This project aims to reduce the vulnerability of the Australian apple and pear industries to changes in our climate. Its focus has been on identifying and understanding the potential impacts of climate change, and developing appropriate adaptive responses for the industry.
What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Spring 2016). It is expected the project’s final report will be available and summarised in the next edition.
At the time of last reporting, a number of field observation and data collection activities had been completed as the project began to wrap up:
- A final year of bud burst and flowering field observations had been recorded across the project’s various sites, completing the baseline phenology data set for the project
- A final year of forced bud (controlled environment) experiments had been completed in Queensland, with results presented to industry at the 2016 National Horticulture Convention
- The last lot of data had been collected at the project’s netting demonstration site in Western Australia, where rows were under black net, white net and no net treatments
- The project’s ‘dormancy-breaking’ spray trial had been undertaken in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, to determine the impacts of various plant-growth regulators on the timing of green tip and flowering and the duration of flowering, as well as fruit set, yield, harvest time and variability of maturity at harvest.
At the time of last reporting, key project results had been presented to the industry through publications including Australian Fruitgrower magazine.
The project was also continuing to develop an interactive chill calculator, to enable growers to calculate winter chill accumulation in their region during dormancy. The prototype can be found here.
Australian apple and pear industry innovation and adoption program (AP15004)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project is responsible for accelerating and expanding the adoption of innovation and technology in apple and pear businesses, and facilitating industry capacity-building, via the apple and pear Future Orchards extension program.
Future Orchards is an internationally renowned technology-transfer project. It includes orchard field walks, orchard benchmarking, and orchard business analysis to deliver world’s best practice and R&D linkages to apple and pear growers in Australia’s major growing regions.
The project also aims to upskill the workforce, improve grower crop and business risk mitigation strategies, and provide grower services and technical support along the supply chain. It seeks to improve crop protection stewardship and chemical access, provide biosecurity preparedness, improve post-harvest productivity, and nurture technical preparedness for export.
Project AP15004 is linked to Delivery of apple and pear Future Orchards extension program (AP15005) which is responsible for the technical delivery of the Future Orchards program.
Activities of AP15005 include the Focus Orchards network to demonstrate the adoption of best practice and new technology, field walks on Focus Orchard properties, OrchardNet, Orchard Business Analysis reporting and regional trials.
What’s the latest update? Autumn Future Orchard walks have been scheduled for March this year, and will have a focus on young tree development and integrated pest management. For more information, contact APAL Technical Manager Angus Crawford on (03) 9329 3511, or 0427 111 852, or at email@example.com.
Southern Loop Orchard Walks
Manjimup, Western Australia – March 20, 2017
Adelaide Hills, South Australia – March 22, 2017
Gippsland, Victoria – March 23, 2017
Huonville, Tasmania – March 24, 2017
Northern Loop Orchard Walks
Stanthorpe, Queensland – March 27, 2017
Orange, New South Wales – March 29, 2017
Batlow, New South Wales – March 30, 2017
Shepparton, Victoria – March 31, 2017
Looking back, project activities have included:
- A range of successful orchard walks, with walks in 2016 achieving the highest rate of attendance ever seen in the Future Orchards program. Visit the Future Orchards library to access presentations and notes from past walks, as well as Future Orchard webinars
- Masterclasses, including the Future Orchards Pear Masterclass delivered in 2016 – a playlist featuring three videos with presentations from the event are available to watch here
- OrchardNet training and messaging – OrchardNet is an online database allowing live business updates to be shared with managers, consultants, pack houses and exporters. It also tracks history, provides benchmarks and forecast performances
- Focus Orchards/orchard trials
- Other extension activities, such as the preparation of relevant articles for Australian Fruitgrower.
Other R&D projects of note…
- Independent program coordination for apple and pear productivity program (AP14022), which supports the coordination and integration of a number or projects, which together make up ‘PIPS2’ program for the industry (the second iteration of the Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils program). PIPS2 projects include AP14023, AP15001, AP15002. AP09031, AP12002 and AP15013, as described above. Activities of the coordination project include improving communication within and between project teams and the apple and pear industry, coordinating linkages and activities between PIPS2 and the Future Orchards program, and more.
- Apple and pear industry leadership initiative – 2016/17 (AP15015), which this year is supporting two Apple & Pear New Horizons Scholarships for young people, to help accelerate change in the apple and pear industry. The scholarships are used towards the completion of a Diploma of Agribusiness at Victoria’s Marcus Oldham College.
- MRL risk analysis for major export markets of the pome fruit industry (AP14002), which collects information on export requirements with regards to pesticides and residue limits. The project maintains and updates maximum residue limit (MRL) tables for key export markets, and supplies these to APAL for distribution to industry.
- Australian apple and pear industry market development program (AP15009), with the next edition of Hortlink to include further details on industry export and market development initiatives.