Apple and Pear

Orchard efficiency, productivity and profitability continues to be a strong focus for Hort Innovation’s investment of the apple and pear R&D levy. In the R&D snapshot below read all about current projects, which are delivering tools and resources to improve on-farm practices, developing understanding of physiological processes in apples and pears, and helping secure and expand market access for growers domestically and in international markets.

To discover the latest results of levy-funded marketing activities, including in-store and consumer events, head to the marketing snapshot.


After you’ve read about the apple and pear industry’s current levy investments and outcomes in this edition of Hortlink, check out Hort Innovation’s apple and pear grower page. The grower page remains your one-stop-shop for industry information, including:

  • Important updates regarding the apple and pear Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), as available. Developed in close consultation with growers and other industry stakeholders, the SIP is a document outlining the priorities for strategic investment in the industry. It is to be used like a ‘roadmap’ by the apple and pear Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest updates regarding the apple and pear SIAP, including details on the panel’s recently appointed chair, Richard de Vos, and summaries from all SIAP meetings to date. The SIAP last convened in November, and is due to meet again around March this year.
  • The 2015/16 apple and pear industry annual report, detailing activities from the previous financial year.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the apple and pear industry.

Any questions?

As well as the apple and pear grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Mark Spees is always available to answer questions on the apple and pear program on 0439 574 173 or at



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.

ASE demonstration

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

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

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.



New Aussie Apples and Netball Australia partnership

On February 17, 2017, Hort Innovation announced the landmark signing of a three-year sponsorship deal with Netball Australia. The sponsorship is a cost-effective way to leverage the upcoming 2017 Aussie Apples brand campaign.

The deal will see Aussie Apples gain valuable media exposure with the rise of netball in Australia, all the way from grassroots games across all states and regions, to the elite levels of the game with the Australian Diamonds in their international matches.

The new partnership will include Aussie Apples being the official fruit supply partner of Netball Australia, getting apples into the hands of netball players at all levels. There will also be television advertising, high-profile ambassador activities, signage at matches, website promotion and more.

Sponsorship covers all levels of the game including:

  • Netball Schools
  • NetSetGO – Netball Australia’s junior entry netball program
  • One Netball – Through which Netball Australia’s community engagement and social impact activities are carried out
  • The National Suncorp Super Netball (SNN) Competition, with the series launched on February 18 and screened on 9Gem, Telstra TV and the free Netball Live App
  • The Australian national team, The Diamonds, in their international series and Fast 5 Tournaments.

Netball is the perfect sport for Aussie Apples to partner with given:

  • The target audience is families, with significant reach across netball media assets…
    • There is a total projected broadcast audience of 2,320,900 across live and replay free-to-air TV, plus Telstra TV streaming, while the Aussie Apples ad will be aired
    • There is game attendance of more than 250,000 people per year
    • The website has more than 800,000 unique users and more than three million page views per year.
  • There is alignment with the apple season (and thus the Aussie Apples marketing campaign) and the netball season, starting in February and running through until October with the Diamonds’ international series and Fast 5 Tournaments
  • Sport is a natural alignment for a healthy product such as apples
  • The breadth of participation in netball across Australia, with the game played by some 1.2 million Aussies
  • The recent growth and increased profile of women’s sport in Australia.

Netball has gained significant momentum in recent times by:

  • Confirming the sport’s breakthrough broadcast deal with Channel 9 over the next five years, which will see games broadcast in primetime on free-to-air television for the first time
  • The rising profile of netball’s star players such as Laura Geitz, Sharni Layton and Gretel Tippett
  • Entry of high-profile clubs such as Collingwood and The Giants
  • Alignment with key partners such as Suncorp, Samsung, Telstra, Swisse and now Aussie Apples.
The 2017 Aussie Apples marketing campaign

With industry input, new creative has been developed for this year’s marketing activities, which will be carried out with the tagline ‘Get Your Crunch On’.

The campaign is all about getting more apples into more shopping baskets by re-energising and re-establishing apples as the go-to healthy, on-the-go snack. Its goals are to:

  • Make apples top of mind with key target audiences including families and ‘young transitionals’ (those under the age of 35 with no children)
  • To leverage the new Aussie Apples sponsorship deal with Netball Australia
  • To modernise the Aussie Apples logo for re-launch.

Key considerations for the campaign direction include:

  • Health messaging
  • The emergence of new apple varieties
  • Re-energising the apple category
  • Ensuring that messaging is clear, compelling and confident.

The campaign will be seen across television, cinema, digital and social media throughout this year’s season, with the first TV commercial airing on March 26.

This media campaign will be fully supported with public relations activity (with key messaging to focus on the partnership with Netball Australia and the upcoming launch of an apple health report). An update of the Aussie Apples consumer website, and event activity including participation at the Sydney Royal Easter Show during April and other events across the country will also be key. On top of that, there will be retailer activity, with Woolworths featuring a consumer sampling campaign across stores during March that will be supported with Aussie Apples branded aprons and apple slicers.

Get your crunch on campaign

‘Always on’ social media for apples and pears

Aussie Apples and Australian Pears have continued with an ‘always on’ social media campaign to ensure communication with target audiences, reminding them to purchase apples and pears more often.

The target consumer for the apples page ( is the main grocery buyer, being families with children at home. Strong use of video content and festive Christmas content at the end of 2016 saw continued high engagement and reach.

The Facebook campaign for pears ( targets a more discerning grocery buyer. Its objective is to remind consumers to cook with and snack on pears more often, and reinforce the health benefits of pears. Over the past four months of activity, Australian Pears has continued to see solid results for the engagement campaign. Since April 2016, over 850,000 consumers have been reached via Facebook, with recipe posts being particularly popular. One pear-smoothie post reached 225,395 consumers and achieved an engagement rate of over 26 per cent.

The 2017 Australian Pears marketing campaign

Elements of this year’s pear campaign are currently being organised, with an update to be provided in the next edition of Hortlink.

As part of this season’s activity, there will be continuation of the digital recipe partnership between Australian Pears and My Foodbook, following successful results in 2016. My Foodbook ( is an online recipe and cookbook destination where site visitors can create their own personalised digital cookbooks using recipes from top food brands, combined with their own ideas. My Foodbook produces professional, engaging and long-lasting content that is highly relevant to its members.

Australian Pears recipes have recently been updated, with the new, fresh and modern dishes and images covering consumers’ favourite cooking occasions including baking, snacks and salads.

Apple and pear coverage in Nourish magazine

Hort Innovation has worked with Nourish magazine to see apples and pears featured in the upcoming autumn edition. The Aussie Apples feature will highlight different apple varieties with seasonality and taste profiles, as well as health benefits. The Australian Pears feature will highlight a number of beautiful and on-trend recipes that were recently developed under the MyFoodbook project.

A new Apple Health Report

The CSIRO has completed an update of the Apple Health Report, which identifies the key health benefits of apples, as well as the claims that can be made according to Food Standards Australia. This information is a critical component to ensure the correct health messaging in used in upcoming campaigns. A PR agency has been engaged to work on the launch of this report to the media, expected to occur in April.

Export market activity

The apple and pear industry is also involved in the Now In Season program, led by the Victorian Government. Now In Season is a multi-industry, multi-country campaign that promotes Australian produce to in priority international markets. Activity under the program includes sampling and point-of-sale materials to encourage trial and purchase of Australian produce, as well as media activity. Priority countries for apple and pear activity include Thailand, Indonesia and United Arab Emirates.



In 2010, Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) helped support an investigative trial conducted by Dr Vincent Candrawinta, monitoring natural antioxidants known as ‘phenolics’ in processing apple juice. Six years later, it would appear that from little things, big things really do grow.

Dr Candrawinta continued his work with the University of Newcastle, and has now created the world’s most potent antioxidant supplements – and they’re made with Australian apples, opening up a potential new revenue stream for local growers.

The revolutionary extraction process, involving only apples and water, results in a 100 per cent natural treatment that can be absorbed into the body far easier than antioxidants that are made synthetically. The chemicals involved in the traditional synthesising process make it difficult for antioxidants to be broken down and absorbed into the human system. Dr Candrawinta’s technique, creating a water soluble antioxidant, solves this problem.

The apple difference

Apples were chosen because they contain more phenolics than any other edible fruit. Unlike other antioxidants, they also pose no risk of pro-oxidation, a process where traditional antioxidants can potentially become unstable under certain conditions. This means the phenolics of apples have no negative side-effects – making them perfect for children and others with sensitive systems. The antioxidant primarily targets inflammation, opening up a world of exciting new possibilities in the area of cancer prevention and the treatment of inflammation-related diseases.

Dr Candrawinata thinks the timing couldn’t be better. “Environmental pollution, the prevalence of fast and processed foods, and fast-paced contemporary lifestyles are exposing us to the highest ever levels of free radicals. The profound health benefits of phenolics have long been a holy grail for scientists, however until now we couldn’t figure out how to extract them from food sources in a way that was compatible with the human body.”

An opportunity for the industry

With their wide application, and the popularity of antioxidant products among the mainstream health market, this research creates a potentially lucrative new revenue stream for apple growers. The process makes use of the whole apple, and it is suitable for the 50 per cent of apples that cannot be sold on supermarket shelves.

The breakthrough has been reported across the world, and recently won Dr Candrawinta Young Alumni of The Year at the University of Newcastle – as well as a nomination for Australian of the Year.

The first commercially available supplements made with the technique have been produced entirely in Australia and are now on sale in five countries. With a promising beginning of over $100,000 in their first quarter sales, the future of these apple products looks rosy indeed.

Hort Innovation chief executive officer John Lloyd said it was exciting to see how the research has progressed. “As Horticulture Australia Limited, the organisation helped fund the early beginnings of this work, which has grown into something quite impressive. As well as benefiting the wider community, the new extraction technique and antioxidant product have the potential to help create demand for Australian apple growers.”

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