There’s plenty going on for the apple and pear industry at the moment. In the R&D Snapshot below, read all about the latest research into integrated pest management, fruit quality and nutrition, new varieties and more.
Meanwhile the Marketing Snapshot shares the strong results of the Hailstorm Heroes campaign for pears, awareness-raising events for apples, and a fruitful partnership with online recipe and cookbook destination My Foodbook.

INDUSTRY UPDATE

The apple and pear Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP) met for the first time on May 16, 2016 in Melbourne. Key topics of discussion included financials, marketing and new strategic marketing pillars for apples and pears, the Australia Fresh trade program, R&D projects and new concepts, as well as the Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) process. A summary of the meeting will be viewable on Hort Innovation’s apple and pear page when available.

A Strategic Investment Planning (SIP) workshop for the industry was held on June 24, 2016, at the National Apple and Pear Conference on the Gold Coast. As part of the workshop a SIP industry consultation process was agreed on, which included integrating where possible into the APAL Grower Engagement Roadshows throughout July and August. Additional information on the SIP process can be found on the apple and pear page.

To find out more about the Apple and Pear program, take a look at the apple and pear page on Hort Innovation’s website or send the industry’s Relationship Manager at Hort Innovation, Mark Spees, an email. Or for marketing, send Marketing Manager Lisa Troy an email.

R&D SNAPSHOT

NEW, ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS FOR THE INDUSTRY

Australian apple and pear industry market development program (AP15009) 

This project is set to build knowledge and capacity within the industry to aid the delivery of a high-quality and consistent apple and pear product that meets domestic and export market requirements. Goals of the program include increasing Australian consumption of fresh pears to 3kg/head by 2020, and boosting apple consumption to 9kg/head, while growing pear export to 20 per cent of the fresh crop by 2020 and to five per cent for apples.

Activities for the domestic market will include industry engagement, new product development, and developing technical knowledge and insights. Activities for export market development will include trade missions and fairs, and developing export market intelligence and access.

Profitable pears: maximising productivity and quality of new pear varieties (AP12002)

This ongoing project is investigating management techniques and physiological mechanisms to increase profitability in growing pears, using an experimental orchard (the Pear Field Laboratory) with new red-blush pear varieties. It continues to produce results that will impact on orchard irrigation, rootstock and cultivar selection, planting arrangement and tree training.

Data collection to validate and parameterise the model for tree-crop monitoring tool SPASMO has commenced, and the researchers report that new remote sensing techniques to measure leaf nitrogen status look promising. Experiments into irrigation resulted in a 67 per cent increase in yield with 35 per cent less water applied.

From the project, videos of pear pruning techniques are now available, as are videos on the pear planting system experiment and about the Pear Field Laboratory in general.


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Nicoter (Kanzi) open Tatura trees in the AP15013 experiment (left) and open Tatura trellis system at the Pear Field Laboratory (right)


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)

A major constraint to apple flowering and production is biennial bearing – the annual cyclical changes in cropping that are characterised by ‘on’ years with heavy fruit loads and ‘off’ years with light loads. This cropping irregularity is usually managed by chemical, mechanical or manual thinning methods, but the underlying physiological, metabolic and molecular plant processes are largely unknown. These two related projects aim to increase understanding of the mechanisms involved in flowering time control of apple crops.

For the international project AP15002, field trials have been set up using a biennial versus non-biennial apple cultivar 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.

The Australian component, project AP15013, is also underway, with field trials being conducted in a commercial orchard setting in the Yarra Valley on the biennial bearing cultivar Nicoter (Kanzi) and the non-biennial bearing cultivar Cripps Pink (Pink Lady).

Integrated pest and disease management – phase 2 (AP15001)

This project follows on from the original Integrated pest and disease management project, which resulted in approval to import and release a biocontrol agent (the Mastrus ridens wasp) against codling moth in apples, to supplement pheromone-mediated mating disruption of the moth.

Phase two of the project (a sub-project of the Orchard productivity, irrigation, pests and soils program) 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.

So far, sentinel bands containing codling moth larvae have 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 have also occurred at orchards in the Stanthorpe area of Queensland. Work is ongoing.


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Codling moth larvae consumed by Mastrus


Improved tree and fruit nutrition for the Australian apple industry (AP14023)

As nitrogen and irrigation management continue to be a significant component of the tool kit for apple growing, research to optimise nitrogen-use efficiency for greatest productivity is essential. This project builds on the now-completed project Precision fertigation for improved apple orchard productivity (AP12006)and 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.

The first season of trials for this project, taking place in Lucaston, Tasmania, are now complete (representing the fourth year of study, including AP12006). The researchers have reported that current season nitrogen lifted fruit nitrogen content significantly, which decreased firmness. They did not observe colour difference associated with nitrogen treatments, which highlighted the role of climate variability on fruit colour development. Data from this season will be compiled with previous fruit quality and yield data to parameterise the ‘plant’ component of the model for tree-crop monitoring tool SPASMO. A methodology has also been developed for detailed soil characterisation, which will be used to parametrise the ‘soil’ component of SPASMO.


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Apples used for fruit-quality assessment in AP14023


National apple and pear grower communications program (AP15007)

This ongoing program ensures growers are kept up-to-date with the latest industry news, information and R&D updates, with the ultimate goal of support the industry as a whole to advance and grow. Delivered through Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL), key outputs include the Australian Fruitgrowers magazine (read the latest June/July 2016 online edition here), the weekly Industry Juice e-newlsetter (find the archived issues here) and management and redevelopment of the APAL website. The program also includes media strategy and engagement, the creation of ‘hot topics’, social media and video.

A needs analysis for IPM RD&E in the apple and pear industry (AP15014)

The purpose of this now-completed project was to provide a better understanding of the current use of integrated pest management (IPM) within the apple and pear industry, and the efficacy of the current IPM Manual in guiding practice.

A key component of the review was to investigate whether IPM is an enabler or impediment to market access. Through interviews and surveys, the project determined that adoption of true IPM in the industry is low, with the most commonly practiced elements of an IPM approach being monitoring and mating disruption technology. The project identified that the use of harsh chemicals may be undermining what many growers call an IPM approach, but that all the tools required to allow growers to use IPM effectively are available – but need greater visibility across the industry.

The work identified that pesticide resistance has the potential to cause a significant industry-wide issue, and that a shift to an IPM approach is needed in order to avoid or deal with this, and to improve export potential.

The analysis also determined that awareness of the IPM Manual is generally high among small and medium growers, though not so with larger growers – and that the manual isn’t being used to inform the development and implementation of an IPM approach on orchards, but rather as an identification guide for insect pests, beneficials and compatible ‘softer’ chemicals.

The findings of this project are hoped to inform future improvements to the IPM Manual and provide recommendations on the future direction of research, development and extension (RD&E) for the industry.

Other R&D of note…

Other projects currently being undertaken in the apple and pear industry include Understanding apple and pear production systems in a changing climate (AP12029), Review of the biosecurity plan for the apple and pear industry (AP15003) and Delivery of apple and pear Future Orchards extension program (AP15005).

MARKETING SNAPSHOT

THE LATEST ACTIVITY THAT’S GROWING THE INDUSTRY

Facebook

The Apple and Pear Facebook contract came to a conclusion in April 2016, which provided the opportunity to re-evaluate the budget and to drive additional value for money from this media.

After assessing a number of submissions a one year contract was awarded to Ikon Communications, who have been tasked to:

  • Develop a social strategy that is value driven
  • Ensure that the strategy aligns and compliments the overarching marketing strategy
  • Ensure that there is consistency across marketing messages
  • Deliver against engagement, reach and frequency KPIs.

Ikon brings significant experience and expertise to the program and manages the social media for a number of well-recognised brands across a range of budgets, and has experience in managing the social media for a number of horticulture industries.

Recent posts to the Facebook page have focused on content that communicates health and variety messaging to our target audience in a way that is relatable and shareable. The page is consistently achieving in excess of the reach and KPI targets set at the beginning of the campaign.


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Hailstorm Heroes campaign

The Hailstorm Heroes pear campaign ran from May 1 to June 30, 2016 to support pear growers affected by the hailstorms in Goulburn Valley at the end of 2015. APAL negotiated with retailers to allow for a variation in the QA specifications and guidelines at Woolworths, IGA and Aldi to allow a percentage of fruit to show hail damage at a minor defects level of 1.5 – 3cm2.

The supporting above the line campaign promoted the hail-affected fruit to consumers by highlighting that despite some superficial damage, the fruit itself was still perfectly good to eat.

The campaign ran across the following media:

  • Radio. From May 1-28, the radio campaign ran across the 2DAY FM, FOX FM and Triple M stations in Sydney and Melbourne, including during high-rating shows such as Hamish and Andy, Fifi and Dave, Eddie McGuire, and the Grill Team. A total of 547 placements were delivered
  • Newspapers. Hailstorm Heroes ads were placed in the The Sydney Morning Herald, The Courier Mail (Queensland) and The Age (Victoria), with prominent page-3 space secured in all three publications at no extra cost
  • Westfield Smart Screens. From May 2-31, Westfield Smart Screens in New South Wales (15 centres), Queensland (six centres) and Victoria (eight) were activated, primarily located within proximity to Woolworths stores.

An effective PR campaign in May and June supported Hailstorm Heroes, targeting key news, short-lead magazines, online lifestyle sites and foodie and lifestyle/health influencers. A total of 62 clips with a combined reach of over 6.45 million people were generated from this activity, including 27 pieces of coverage across traditional media, including metro news outlets and regional newspapers, as well as 35 social media clips.

For social media, a simple, shareable infographic was created and shared across high-reaching social channels including Women’s Health Australia and Foodwatch. It was also used on the Australian Pears Facebook page, where it received over 1400 reactions.


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Orange Apple Festival sponsorship

Aussie Apples was once again a proud sponsor of the annual Orange Apples Festival, held over the weekend of May 6-8, 2016. The festival is now in its fifth year and celebrates the region’s diversity and quality of food and wine, with a specific focus on apples, and attracts a diverse group of local, intra- and interstate visitors. The investment secured Aussie Apples’ position as one of the overall sponsors (Woolworths was the major sponsor of the event) which generated the following opportunities:

  • Aussie Apples branded sponsorship of the Apple Ramble, which is a consumer event where groups see an apple packing shed in action, followed by a guided tour of a local orchard and introduction to locally grown apple varieties. Guests are encouraged to pick an apple directly from the tree and are treated to a morning tea of apple pie!
  • Branding at the Apple Core Cooking demonstrations and tastings over the weekend
  • Branding at orchard gates where visitors are encouraged to cycle or drive from orchard to orchard and pick up a complimentary apple along the way
  • Branding at the signature Mother’s Day Long Lunch event which was also an opportunity for industry to meet with a key contact at Woolworths
  • Aussie Apples branding across all festival promotional literature and brochures
  • Mr Crunch attended the Woolworths sponsored schools event which included a dress up day, art competition and visits from growers.

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My Foodbook sponsorship

My Foodbook is an online recipe and cookbook destination where consumers can create their own personalised digitalised 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 has a 12 month Recipe Partner subscription with My Foodbook which runs until September 29, 2016. Some of the other partners include major brands such as Western Star, Perfect Italiano, Lilydale and Cadbury.

This subscription allows Australian Pears to be part of the My Foodbook branded content promotions that reach over two million consumers each month and consistently delivers against the Pears brand positioning and reinforces the occasionality of cooking with pears. View My Foodbook.


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Seasonal cookbooks through My Foodbook

Australian Pears has secured features seasonal cookbooks developed by My Foodbook, including Winter Warmers (June).

GROWER STORY

GLENN FAHEY, GLENBERNIE ORCHARD, DARKES FOREST, NSW

In 1986, third generation apple grower Glenn Fahey finished his engineering degree and returned to the family orchard, to help his father out following an operation.

“That was 30 years ago and my father is still getting about the farm.”

These days, Glenbernie Orchard produces about 400 tonnes of apples each year, as well as peaches and nectarines. The milder climate means the Fahey’s mainly grow Gala apples but also have Fuji, Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Pink Lady varieties.

Glenn said he enjoyed the challenge of working with the natural environment to grow produce customers could take home and enjoy.

“I also find that the apple industry is a more mature industry, in Australian terms anyway, and is quite cohesive. Many growers are quite free with their information sharing.”

Glenn said the orchard’s location, 60 kilometres from Sydney, meant the business had a strong farm gate focus.

“We certainly participate in the wholesale market but having customers come to the farm means we can interact directly with the person who eats our produce.”

This close interaction means the business received clear and direct feedback from customers.

“We are also able to provide educational content direct to those customers.  Recently, this content has included country of origin labeling discussion.”

Glenn said he was a supporter of research, such as that examining foreign market access, which helped the industry as a whole.

“The most current project that comes to mind is the Future Orchards® project which provides practical ideas in an on farm environment that is easy for growers to take up.”

High profile, industry-wide promotions and marketing campaigns were also beneficial, Glenn said.

Glenn said the most immediate challenge facing the industry was the need for a new marketing plan following an increase in national production.
“The plan would ideally manage the supply of apples throughout the season so that fruit was not stored for a long time and then dumped on to the market at season’s end.”

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