Hort Innovation continues to invest the apple and pear R&D levy in a number of key projects, from those investigating orchard efficiency and productivity to work into pest management and biosecurity. Read more in the R&D snapshot below. To discover the latest results of levy-funded marketing activities, including in-store and consumer events, check out the marketing snapshot.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

The selection process for appointing an independent chair for the apple and pear Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) has recently been completed. Information on the SIAP chair will be made available on Hort Innovation’s apple and pear grower page shortly.

The Strategic Investment Plan

A Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) is the roadmap that helps ensure levy investment decisions align with individual industry priorities. It is used to guide decision-making in levy spending, and represents a balanced view of stakeholders in the industry.

Hort Innovation is currently consulting with growers and other industry stakeholders to finalise new SIPs for each industry by the end of the calendar year.

To learn more about the SIP process, visit Hort Innovation’s SIP Portal.

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. For questions relating specifically to the industry’s marketing, contact Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Lisa Troy.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

National apple and pear grower communications program (AP15007)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? Beginning at the end of 2015, 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.

What’s the latest update? The program is delivered through Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL), with key outputs continuing to be:

  • The bi-monthly Australian Fruitgrower magazine, viewable online here
  • The weekly Industry Juice e-newlsetter (find archived issues here)
  • Management of the APAL website.

The communications program also includes media strategy and engagement, the creation of ‘hot topics’, social media and video.


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The October/November 2016 issue of Australian Fruitgrower magazine


 

Understanding apple and pear production systems in a changing climate (AP12029)

Status: Near completion, with final report due early 2017

What’s it all about? The aim of this project is ultimately 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? A number of field observation and data collection activities have been completed as the project wraps up:

  • A final year of bud burst and flowering field observations were 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 were completed in Queensland, with results presented to industry at the 2016 National Horticulture Convention
  • The last lot of data was 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 was 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.

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Differences in stages of flowering on Gala trees in Queensland, treated with and without ‘dormancy-breakers’


Key results have been presented to the industry through publications including Australian Fruitgrower magazine.

The project is also continuing to develop an interactive chill calculator, which will enable growers to calculate winter chill accumulation in their region during dormancy. The prototype can be found here.

The project has also developed three draft publications for growers on netting for heat, winter chill and flowering, and future climates in pome-fruit orchards. Once finalised, these will be distributed to industry.

 

Review of the Biosecurity Plan for the Apple and Pear Industry (AP15003)

Status: Ongoing 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 will help 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? Draft Threat Summary Tables have been circulated to the Industry Biosecurity Group. A Biosecurity Implementation Group meeting is also to be held to develop a Biosecurity Implementation Table for the industry for the next five years.

Once all sections are completed, the Biosecurity Plan for the Apple and Pear Industry will be circulated to industry, and to government, for endorsement.

 

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 were continued to be produced as usual, and in October a new weekly InfoPome system was launched. 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.

The new system features a single web form for data capture of both apples and pears, accessible via any web browser on a computer or tablet, with no longer a need for a separate program and separate forms.

 

A needs analysis for IPM R&D in the Apple and Pear Industry (AP15014)

Status: Completed project

What was it all about? The purpose of this needs analysis was to provide a better understanding of the current use of integrated pest management (IPM) in the apple and pear industry, to consider the efficacy of the industry’s current IPM Manual in guiding practice, and to investigate whether IPM is an enabler or impediment to market access.

Full details can be found in the project’s final report, which is available to order at http://horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports (final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies).

In summary, key findings of the project were that:

  • There is high awareness of IPM, which is the effective combination of chemical, cultural and biological methods to control both insect pests and diseases in a ‘whole of system’ approach.
  • While awareness is high, adoption of true IPM by the industry is low – while 86 per cent of growers surveyed believed they were using IPM, further investigation suggested that, by the technical definition, only 25 per cent actually were.
  • The most commonly practiced elements of IPM are monitoring and mating disruption technology, but typically it is the use of harsh chemicals disruptive to key beneficial that undermine many IPM approaches.
  • All the tools required to allow growers to use IPM effectively are available and are being used by some, but grower and advisor confidence in IPM could stand to be increased across the industry. On-farm demonstrations and updating of the IPM Manual are approaches that could help achieve this.
  • IPM can and should be used to help facilitate the expansion of export trade.

 

PIPS Orchard Productivity Program (AP09031)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This program was established to increase efficiency within and assist sustainability of apple and pear orchards. It was due for completion in 2014, when a two-year variation was granted to extend specific work into artificial spur extinction (ASE). As such, the current aim is 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? The field and laboratory work components of the first season of the extended project have been completed, with data being collated and analysed. Preliminary findings have been presented to industry, including at the 2016 National Horticulture Convention.

 

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-blush pear varieties and is producing results that will impact on orchard irrigation, rootstock and cultivar selection, planting arrangement and tree training.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting:

  • Data collection to validate and parameterise the model for tree-crop monitoring tool ‘SPASMO’ had commenced
  • The researchers reported that new remote sensing techniques to measure leaf nitrogen status looked promising
  • Experiments into irrigation had seen a 67 per cent increase in yield with 35 per cent less water applied
  • A series of videos had been produced, available via this website.

 

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. 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. Kicking off at the start of 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? No new milestone reports were due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting:

  • Field trials had been set up for project AP15002 at the Centre of Competence for Fruit Cultivation near Lake Constance in the Alps, and the Spencer Seedless cultivar at the Horticultural Research Centre of the University of Hohenheim in Germany
  • Field trials had begun for project AP15013 in a commercial orchard setting in the Yarra Valley.

 

Integrated pest and disease management – phase 2 (AP15001)

Status: Ongoing project

What’s it all about? This project follows on from the 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? No new milestone reports were due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting, sentinel bands containing codling moth larvae had been established across the original release orchard from phase one of the project in an attempt to monitor Mastrus ridens activity, and two field releases had occurred at orchards in the Stanthorpe area of Queensland.

 

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 builds on project Precision fertigation for improved apple orchard productivity (AP12006), which concluded at the end of 2015.

It will develop a multi-season nitrogen budget underpinned by fertigation research, and a user-friendly decision-support tool to guide grower optimisation of irrigation and fertigation application.

What’s the latest update? No new milestone reports were due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (Winter 2016). At the time of last reporting:

  • The first season of trials, in Lucaston, Tasmania, had been completed
  • The data was to be compiled and used with other data to parameterise the ‘plant’ component of the model for tree-crop monitoring tool ‘SPASMO’
  • A methodology had been developed for detailed soil characterisation, to be used to paramertise the ‘soil’ component of ‘SPASMO’.

 

Other R&D projects of note…

» Australian apple and pear industry innovation and adoption program (AP15004), linked to Delivery of apple and pear Future Orchards extension program (AP15005)

» Apple and Pear Industry Leadership Initiative – 2016/17 (AP15015), a project that will support two scholarships towards a Diploma of Agribusiness at Victoria’s Marcus Oldham College in 2017

» MRL risk analysis for major export markets of the pome fruit industry (AP14002), which has recently provided updated maximum residue limit tables to APAL for distribution, including the addition of information for China and Thailand

» Independent program coordination for Apple and Pear Productivity Program (AP14022), which supports the coordination role for four separate projects: AP14023, AP15001, AP15002 and AP15013.

» Australian apple and pear industry market development program (AP15009), a recently begun program focused on export development and trade-related apple and pear activities.

Also on the trade front, Australian apples and pears have been showcased via Australia Fresh – the multi-industry export-market-development program for fruits, nuts and vegetables. The program’s activities, which include exhibiting at international trade shows, represent an important strategy for boosting the export and consumption of Australian produce overseas.

So far, via Australia Fresh, Australian apples and pears have been represented at the Asia Fruit Logistica trade show in Hong Kong in September, and at the China World Fruit & Vegetable Trade Fair in Beijing at the end of October.

In November, Australia Fresh will also have a presence for the first time at the Middle East’s largest fresh produce expo, World of Perishables, in Dubai. Early in 2017 it will also have a pavilion at the Gulfood expo in Dubai – the largest food expo in the world.

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

Aussie Apples ‘Lunchbox Heroes’ tastings

During the latest school holidays, Aussie Apples was out sampling Pink Lady and Sundowner varieties in seven of the busiest shopping centres in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. The objectives of the campaign were to:

  • Remind consumers that apples are the perfect, healthy, on-the-go snack
  • Target families with kids during the busy school holiday period
  • Provide apple information via trained promotional staff, to educate consumers about the different apple varieties and flavours.

To drive sales volume, a gift-with-purchase promotion was also run. Consumers were able to bring receipts for their apple purchase in the centres (from Coles, Woolworths, Aldi or fruit markets) and receive a free Aussie Apples-branded lunch bag. These were a huge hit and perfect for kids heading back to school.

The campaign results were outstanding with over 57,200 samples of apples handed out and 3000 lunch-bags redeemed.


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Shopping-centre activity during the last school holidays


 

The EKKA, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth Royal Shows

With over 450,000 visitors over 10 days, the Brisbane Royal Show (the EKKA) is the largest annual event of its kind in Queensland. This year, the apple and pear industry teamed up with the avocado industry for a stand in the Woolworths Pavilion, arguably the busiest pavilion at the show.

The objectives at this event were sampling and branding. Apple sampling involved slices of Jazz and Pink Lady apples, while Packham pears were made into smoothies. There were around 20,000 samples of each handed out by staff wearing branded uniforms.

There were also posters with various apple varieties on display, and pear ripening bags were handed out, which included seasonality and recipes.

The stand was located close to the entry of the pavilion, an area with a lot of foot traffic.

The bright, fresh images on the stand resonated with show-goers, with many commenting that they were drawn to the stand and attracted to the fresh food – a healthy alternative to the food normally on offer at the Ekka.

Feedback was overwhelming positive, with crowds of people around the exhibit and queues formed when samples were handed out.

At The Royal Melbourne Show, Aussie Apples partnered with Woolworths for two days of Pink Lady and Sundowner apple sampling in the Woolworths Kitchen. Over 12,000 samples were given out as the promotional staff reached 83 per cent of consumers that passed through the Woolworths Kitchen Stand.

At The Royal Adelaide Show, the Apple & Pear Growers Association of South Australia managed the stand, along with an army of industry volunteers. This added to the consumer experience, with show attendees able to talk to growers directly and learn first-hand about the apples and pears they were enjoying. There was a great display of a range of apple and pear varieties, juice and dried apple snacks for purchase.

The Royal Perth Show stand was managed by Pome West and located in the ‘IGA Fresh from WA’ pavilion. Pink Lady and Granny Smith varieties were showcased and the stand also sold locally sourced apple juice and the ever-popular apple slinky machines.


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The stand at The Royal Perth Show


 

Facebook pages: Aussie Apples and Australian Pears

The Aussie Apples and Australian Pears Facebook pages have continued with their ‘always on’ approach to ensure strong communication with their target audiences, and to remind them to purchase apples and pears more often.

The target consumer for the apples page (www.facebook.com/aussieapples/) is the main grocery buyer, being families with children at home. Some recent examples of successful posts include an apple fritters post that reached 113,900 consumers and had a strong engagement rate of eight per cent, and an apple salad post that reached 117,200 consumers.

The Facebook campaign for pears (www.facebook.com/australianpears) targets a more discerning grocery buyer. Its objective is to reminding consumers to cook with and snack on pears more often. It also reinforces the health benefits of pears.

Recent successful posts include a beautiful image post carrying a message about the natural health benefits of pears, which reached over 70,000 consumers, and a snacking-suggestion post featuring pear, cheese and crackers perfect for spring picnics, that reached nearly 57,000 consumers.


apple-and-pear-facebook-examples

Some of the content from the Aussie Apples and Australian Pears Facebook pages


 

Coming up: apple marketing campaign for 2017

Following ongoing consultation with industry, the development of the apple marketing campaign for 2017 is well underway.

Hort Innovation is working with representatives from the apple industry to deliver a sporting sponsorship agreement that will raise the profile and increase the relevance of apples, making them top of mind when consumers are looking for a healthy snack. The creative and PR campaign is being developed in conjunction with the sport sponsorship, and the agency pitches were to be presented to the industry’s SIAP in early November.

The consumer launch of the campaign will be in time for the launch of the apple season in 2017.

 

Coming up: a new Apple Health Report

An updated Apple Health Report is to be produced to identify 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 ensuring the correct health messaging is included in upcoming marketing activity for the industry.

 

Now In Season activity

The apple and pear industry is an integral collaborator within Hort Innovation’s co-funded Now In Season program. This multi-industry, multi-country initiative promotes premium quality Australian produce via in-store retail activities in key export markets, which for apples and pears include Thailand, Indonesia and United Arab Emirates.

GROWER PROFILE

MEL WARE, MAHNEW ORCHARD, SA

A summer job turned into a stellar career for Mel Ware, who took on a bit of thinning and picking work at Mahnew Orchard in 2004 and never left.

Starting out as a farmhand, these days Mel manages the apple orchard in Lenswood, South Australia, which is owned by family friends Justin and Bron Wenham.

“I take on all the day-to-day running of the orchard as far as spraying, mowing, weed control, irrigation, harvest, carting all the fruit to packing sheds and cold storage and anything in between,” Mel said. “I also have my heavy combination truck licence and step into Justin’s interstate truck when needed.”

And her hard work and dedication isn’t going unnoticed, taking home the Rising Star of the Year Award at the 2016 APAL National Awards for Excellence.

“It was a definite surprise. I didn’t, and still don’t, think I’ve done anything really special to stand out in the grand scheme of things, but someone must have seen through all that!”

Mel said other apple growers in the Lenswood district have supported her, shared valuable advice and are always there to lend an ear. “Growers in this industry are willing to share their experiences, which is great. They’re not afraid to say if something did or didn’t work. It makes you want to get out there and have a go, because you know there are people that will help you along the way.”

On just over 6.5 hectares, Mahnew Orchards grows several different apple varieties including Gala, Jonathon, Red Delicious, Fierro Fuji, Fuji, Pink Lady, Rosy Glow and Rockit.

Mel said that although traditional apple growing methods are employed at Mahnew, pruning and growth control techniques learned through the industry’s Future Orchards program have been helpful.

Future Orchards is funded by Hort Innovation using the apple and pear levy and funds from the Australian Government, and is delivered via APAL, with AgFirst as a key partner.

Through the program, growers participate in hands-on orchard walks and are told about the latest research and management techniques. It aims to help growers increase production and the amount of premium fruit harvested, lower costs and ensure Australian orchardists are competitive in domestic and international markets.

“The techniques we’ve learnt are working and we’re achieving the results we’re wanting. And while finding time is always a big thing, I’d like to go on more orchard walks.”

Mel said that recent challenges facing local growers include lower returns for fruit, rising expenses and keeping birds away from the orchards.

“Some people are putting up permanent netting to control the birds, but that is creating issues in itself as far as pollination goes. We don’t have permanent nets ourselves, but a lot of the growers in our area are putting them up, which means it will make it increasingly difficult for those without net to control the birds.”

 

Image courtesy of Apple & Pear Australia Ltd

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