Along with Hortlink, don’t forget that Hort Innovation’s summerfruit grower page is an important source of industry info for levy payers. On it you’ll find:

  • Updates regarding the summerfruit 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 summerfruit Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) when providing advice to Hort Innovation on potential levy investments.
  • The latest meeting notes from the summerfruit SIAP, which most recently met on May 17 and 18 in Adelaide, and is due to meet again later in 2017.
  • Current financial documents regarding your levy, including the July 2016 to March 2017 financial operating statement, and expenditure summaries for R&D and marketing projects.
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the industry.

Any questions?

As well as the summerfruit grower page, Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Mark Spees is always available to answer questions on the summerfruit program, on 0439 574 173 or at For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Dianne Phan.



Selecting and releasing to industry high quality fresh and dried Australian apricots for export and domestic markets (MT12015)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project is responsible for developing new apricot varieties that are locally adapted, through a partnership with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) National Apricot Breeding Program. This is a multi-industry project that is funded by both the dried tree fruit levy and co-contribution from other sources, including from within the summerfruit industry.

What’s the latest update? The project continues to select and evaluate the remaining seedlings from the National Apricot Breeding Program, working towards the commercialisation of the best lines.

For the fresh apricot industry, this means the delivery of varieties that can produce regular crops of robust fruit with a flavoursome eating experience for consumers.

As part of the testing of fruit from the 2016/17 season, consumer sensory panels were used for fresh fruit, looking at overall eating experience, flavour and sweetness, as well as toughness of skin, firmness of flesh, and sourness. This work compared apricot lines from the project with lines from a different period of the breeding program, and with two commercial varieties. Four of the project lines rated as ‘excellent’ in the testing, others also promisingly outperformed the commercial varieties, while for others insight was given – such as the need for longer time in cold storage, or pre-conditioning to lower acid levels.

Combined, all evaluation results of this latest season (including agronomic testing) have led to the removal of eight lines from the project, allowing more resources to focus on the now 16 lines remaining under commercial consideration.

Summerfruit industry minor use program (SF16001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the summerfruit industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

The minor use program is also supported by the project Generation of residue data for pesticide minor use permit applications in horticulture crops 2015/16 – Eurofins (ST15027) which is responsible for generating data to support a range of permit applications for a range of industries. Project ST15027 uses grant funds from the Australian Government’s Agvet program, plus some levy contributions.

What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up for free here.

Increased stone fruit profitability by consistently meeting market expectations (SF12003)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Established in 2012, this project has been responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a world-class summerfruit field research facility: the Stonefruit Field Laboratory at DEDJTR-Tatura in Victoria.

The field laboratory has the broad objective to evaluate how orchard management (crop load, radiation interception, rootstock and irrigation) affects fruit quality and its variability (including sweetness, firmness and maturity) in selected varieties of peach, nectarine, plum and apricot.

What’s the latest update? As reported in the last edition of Hortlink (2017, edition 1), the project continues to establish and maintain trials into crop load and rootstocks for peaches and nectarines; crop load and canopy management in plums and apricots; and an irrigation experiment on nectarines. While no new milestone report was due in the period since the last Hortlink, you can see last edition’s update – a recap of the 2015/16 season trials – here.

Rootstock and training system to optimise early stone fruit bearing and growth (SF13001) 

Status: Ongoing project, linked to Increased stone fruit profitability by consistently meeting market expectations (SF12003), described above

What’s it all about? Using the Stonefruit Field Laboratory, this project is addressing issues related to the very early years of tree establishment and development until full production. It is generating knowledge on how rootstocks, tree training systems and their interaction with crop load affect the physiology of tree and fruit development, especially fruit size, composition and performance.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (2017, edition 1), but you can see last edition’s update here. Look out for new updates in future editions of Hortlink.

China market readiness and entry (SF16000)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project began in 2016, after the signing of the protocol to export Australian nectarines to China. Its aims have included:

  • Ensuring the export readiness of the Australian summerfruit industry through the training of growers, packers and exporters and facilitating the registration and audit of export treatment facilities, orchards and packhouses
  • Delivering the market-entry strategy for nectarines into China
  • Developing and implementing a monitoring and management program for a range of pests and diseases of quarantine concern to China
  • Facilitating industry engagement to finalise market access to China for peaches, apricots and plums.

What’s the latest update? With no new milestone report due to Hort Innovation since the last Hortlink (2017, edition 1), you can revisit last edition’s recap here, which describes training, registration and in-market activities. Throughout the season, the project has also been responsible for delivering regular updates to registered exporters through Summerfruit Australia channels, with details of sale volumes, market prices, market sentiment, clearance issues and more.

Comparing stonefruit ripening, quality and volatile composition (SF15001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning in late 2015, this project is developing tools and knowledge to assist producers in harvesting, storing and ripening fruit for optimum firmness, sweetness and aroma. There is a particular emphasis on fruit for export.

What’s the latest update? Key activities of the project include identifying and quantifying fruit aroma volatile profiles, and monitoring the response of summerfruit cultivars to storage when fruit is harvested at various maturities, then determining subsequent ripening behaviour. While no new milestone was due in the period since the last Hortlink (2017, edition 1), you can see what was happening at the time of last reporting here, with the next edition to include the latest project happenings.

Australian Stonefruit Grower Magazine 2016 (SF15003)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? Recently concluding, this project has been responsible for the production of Australian Stonefruit Grower magazine. Available quarterly, the magazine communicates the latest updates on R&D levy investments and other industry news to Australian growers. Issues continue to be available for download at

Production of the magazine is to be continued to a new project currently being established by Hort innovation.

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Horticulture trade intelligence reporting 2017-2019 (MT16011), a new project to provide easy-to-read and easy-to-act-upon trade performance information to Australia’s horticulture industry. Quarterly reports will be made available for download through the Hort Innovation website, with the first summerfruit report expected to be made available on the summerfruit grower page in the near future.
  • SITplus: Developing and optimising production of a male-only, temperature-sensitive-lethal, strain of Qfly, B. tryoni (MT13059), which is developing a ‘temperature-sensitive lethal, male-selecting’ strain of Queensland fruit fly (Qfly). To put simply, the research will allow for male-only, sterile fruit flies to be bred in large numbers. It is one of the key projects in the broader strategic co-investment SITplus initiative that’s tackling the issue of Qfly. The male flies are to ultimately be released in growing regions of south-eastern Australian that are affected by Qfly. They will come to outnumber the wild male population in these areas and by mating with wild females – and limiting the opportunity for wild males to do so – they are intended to lead to the collapse of wild Qfly populations. The summerfruit industry is one of several involved in the project.



The 2016/17 season of activity has now wrapped up, with an update provided in last Hortlink, available here. As planning for the upcoming season gets underway, look for updates in future editions.



Amid rising stone fruit export opportunities and the ever-present need to satisfy consumer expectations, Dr Mark O’Connell is working to change the way the industry does business, one field trial at a time.

A horticulture production scientist, Mark has been assigned a single though significant task by the summerfruit industry through Hort Innovation: to help make the nation’s stone fruit more consistent in quality.

Backed by his team at the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), Mark is meeting that challenge at a purpose-built, world-class, high-density experimental orchard in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley region.

Established in 2013, the facility helps researchers evaluate how orchard management (crop load, radiation interception, rootstock and irrigation) affects fruit quality and its variability (including sweetness, firmness and maturity) in selected varieties of peach, nectarine, plum and apricot.

A number of achievements have been made to date with information on tweaking orchard management to improve fruit quality already available to growers on Agriculture Victoria’s Horticulture Industry Network website. And there’s plenty more to come.

The challenge

Each year, only 52 per cent of Australian households buy apricots, nectarines, peaches or plums (summerfruit). Consumer testing has revealed low consumer satisfaction caused by inconsistent fruit quality has led to limited prices from oversupply, and poor returns for growers.

“Through this project, we are working to turn poor sales growth around and essentially revitalise industry by giving them the tools they need to create the best product possible,” Mark said.

“On top of that aim to help drive up prices and change static domestic consumer consumption, the export potential for stone fruit to Asia is enormous.”

For the year ending June 2015, Australia exported 12,665 tonnes of summerfruit, chiefly to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Exports jumped 12 per cent that same year and are tipped to rise further after China welcomed its first Australian stone fruit – nectarines – late last year. This feat was achieved off the back of extensive work done by Hort Innovation, Summerfruit Australia and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Working to boost fruit quality

The Stonefruit Experimental Orchard, located at Tatura, 18km out of Shepparton, is the essential tool in Mark’s project. It sits on three hectares and consists of a host of experiments with peach, nectarine, plum and apricot varieties, with researchers studying the effects of crop load, canopy design, rootstock, irrigation management on production, yield and fruit quality.

Additional trees were recently planted to demonstrate novel canopy systems – including two-dimensional hedgerow and cordon tree training – for mechanical pruning and harvesting, and provide a range of cultivars for post-harvest fruit quality analysis and testing innovative technologies, such as fruit gauges and sensors.

Various harvest tools and facilities were also recently added, including a fruit grader, cool rooms, controlled atmosphere rooms and disinfestation containers to complement the field studies.

The project team have hosted several visiting scientists and international students, with the orchard forming the foundation for studies on crop water use and crop water stress, fruit growth, fruit maturity, fruit volatiles and post-harvest storage and handling.

Mark said various grower groups also visit the site to learn from the research, and feedback has been positive.

“Grower groups seem particularly interested in rootstocks, which is a reflection of the lack of available information on interactions between rootstocks and orchard productivity,” he said.

“Visitors always have a liking to observe the plum and apricot studies, particularly at fruit maturity.”

Getting the orchard to the ultra-modern and thriving state it is at has been no small feat, Mark said.

“The challenge has been to establish a world class modern high-density experimental stone fruit orchard to advance the understanding of agronomic and physiologic factors that improve consistency in fruit quality, particularly sweetness,” he said.

Autumn 2017 has seen the completion of harvest of all 11 field experiments.

Delivering results

Mark and his team have uncovered some interesting top-level findings:

  • The researchers note thinning resulted in significant differences in crop level, fruit yield and average fruit weight – though uniformity of fruit size was similar among crop load treatments and canopy systems.
  • In all cases, the low crop load treatment decreased yield and increased fruit size – generating a greater proportion of fruit meeting/exceeding minimum fruit size for export to Asia.
  • With high crop-load treatments – where there was a high amount of fruit per tree – the researchers described a significant decrease in fruit size and fruit sweetness in both peaches and nectarines, irrespective of canopy system used.
  • In general, sweetness increased with a reduction in fruiting level – and comparing training systems, fruit sweetness was higher on Tatura Trellis in both peaches and nectarines compared to a vertical leader system.

As part of this project, a range of videos of the trial orchard facility are available online, and field tours are held each year at DEDJTR-Tatura.

Where to from here?

Mark and his team are in this process of developing production protocols for consistent fruit quality. These will be made available to growers on Hort Innovation’s summerfruit grower page, as well as the Horticulture Industry Network website.

Next, the research team is keen to investigate on the roles of rootstock, crop load, canopy design and irrigation management on fruit quality. Additionally, a new research focus will be on the role of fruit position and light interception relationships on fruit quality.

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