This edition I want to raise two topics. First, let’s talk about managing water-stressed tress as there are a number of orchards suffering from the lack of rainfall around the Western Bay of Plenty. This reduced rainfall has resulted in some trees becoming stressed and suffering. This suffering may manifest itself in a lack of leaf, a lack of vigour, and poor fruit sizing. The stress can be increased with heavy crop loads and small fruit. This can make the trees more susceptible to pests; in particular six spotted mite may be more prevalent and this pest impacts leaf volume.
To break this tree stress cycle we at AAL tend to target pest control and leaf quality first. Having the leaves that are in their best condition is important to ensure the tree can operate and grow effectively. To achieve this we will spray the pest, and use seaweed and nitrogen to stimulate and feed the tree. We also apply copper in every application. Afterwards, we prune and inject. This year we injected first, once the rains arrived. We injected most trees regardless of their phytophtora status. This was to stimulate a flush. We expect to inject again in spring to again stimulate tree growth. We then pruned the trees.
This leads me to my second topic. Despite cutting fruit off, it is important for future years that you prune. I have learnt that pruning annually is a key tactic to support return cropping. This maintains younger growth on the tree, it stimulates growth and leaf replacement and helps maintain the tree canopy in balance to the root mass. Remember, we want tree/shoot growth to carry our flower.
Of course, as grower, we get concerned with fruiting – however not managing your trees right during this drier season could have an impact for many years.
On my own orchard we’re severely affected by drought and have some tree with dieback from a lack of water. Now the rains have arrived we have removed 60 per cent of fruit crop, pruned the trees to remove 30-40 per cent of the canopy, injected all the trees, controlled pests and increased nutrient applications to more readily-available nutrient forms by changing the types of fertilisers being used. And this year we are fertilising all winter.
Strong bold actions and proactive management will help me have my trees in a better condition at spring time than they were heading to some months ago.
Be proactive – prune this winter regardless of crop loading and seriously consider injecting all trees in spring. This will set your trees up for a better crop return and a better longer-term cropping programme.