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.
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.
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.
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).