This time last year we were all sitting with our fingers and toes crossed, finally assessing our crop loadings for the coming year. This year it appears we haven’t got enough fingers and toes to match the crop size. The crop set in our area looks big. It’s been a few years since we last saw a crop this big. Indications are there is plenty of fruit all over the Bay of Plenty and also in the Far North.
The crop set, along with the dryness we are experiencing in January, is impacting our ability to grow the flush required for next year. It may also start impacting fruit size.
At AAL we are planning our game plan to grow big fruit early. Also, we want to protect what flower we can grow for the next season’s cropping. We are considering a number of tactics and these include nutrient feeding programmes, water and pruning. One tactic we’ve decided on, and we did this early, is to inject all heavy crop-carrying trees using the Avoject and HiPK at a 15 per cent rate.
For many years we have used injecting as a tool to stimulate flush and growth. I was taught this by a very experienced grower, who is also a leading NZ grower. He religiously injects his trees twice-a-year. His logic is to prevent tree decline rather than wait for it. He has big trees and has an orchard yield/performance in the top few. We use injecting as a key tool to stimulate flush. We do it tactically and timely. We do one in the autumn and will reassess after the winter, particularly where heavy cropping trees have gone through a wet winter. The spring injection is done tactically. The other key point is to ensure when you inject you do it correctly and well enough to get a result. That involves placing an injection every 120mm minimum and even down to 100mm apart.
A tree with a very heavy crop is under pressure in all systems. Lightening the load with tactical pruning and injecting can help stimulate flush and growth. We want this growth to help provide more energy for fruit growth. The earlier we grow the fruit, the better the result.
I advocate pruning every year. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are cutting fruit off because it’s better to appreciate that continuing a regular pruning programme will enhance your ability to have fruit to harvest every year. In a year like this with a big crop set it’s very easy, as a collective of orchards, to throw the industry into a full on/off season cycle and heavily coordinate to be extreme. The impact of that is low pricing returns in big years and big returns for those few orchards with fruit in low years.
It also impacts our ability to meet international market demands and provides openings for competing continues to fill our supply gaps.
So the message is don’t stop pruning, keep up your nutrition and consider injecting twice during this next nine months.