Almond Centre of Excellence experimental and demonstration orchard (AL19000)
What’s it all about?
This project is providing funding for the infrastructure and maintenance needed for the Almond Centre of Excellence experimental and demonstration orchard, a collaboration between Hort Innovation and the South Australian Government. This includes items such as irrigation systems, machinery, shed facilities, orchard preparation, trees, training aids for plantings, labour and water.
The Centre of Excellence demonstrates new technologies and practices to the almond industry, and helps enhance the progress and extension of levy-funded projects such as:
- National almond breeding and evaluation program (AL17005)
- Evaluation of potential prunus rootstocks for almond production – stage 2 (AL16006)
- Almond productivity: Tree architecture and development of new growing systems (AL14007)
Under the project, the experimental orchard will come to have plantings covering traditional varieties and tree densities that can be used to investigate how to improve current commercial practices, as well as high-density new genotypes and tree architectures that will offer the potential for new methods to be explored. The facility will ensure that farm trials are well managed to the researcher’s requirements in terms of irrigation, nutrition, pruning, harvest timing and pest and disease control.
The Almond Centre of Excellence’s Experimental Orchard at Loxton, South Australia emerged as a valuable resource for industry stakeholders in 2022.
Five years after it was established, the facility features a growing range of ongoing research and development trials that focus on how growers can operate as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
As the year unfolded and pandemic restrictions on people movement lifted, the orchard has become a focal point for workshops, demonstrations and field days for growers, researchers and service providers.
The Centre continues to work on higher density orchard trials, tree architecture, irrigation efficiency, integrated pest management, improved bee habitat, new varietals and rootstocks as well as an increasing focus on ag-tech innovation including autonomous farm machinery and laser technology to control birds.
During the year planning also began on installing fish-screens on the orchard’s suction pumps to eliminate native fish kill and significantly reduce foreign matter infiltrating the irrigation system. Once river levels drop in the New Year, the fish screens will be installed.
The ACE Orchard has become a showcase of so many aspects of growing that there is increasing recognition within the grower community that a visit to the orchard is now key part of any process for change on farm.
Commercial companies have also embraced the concept. Service providers involved with autonomous machinery, connectivity solutions, irrigation, moisture monitoring, frost fan, chemical and fertilizer businesses have approached the ABA to conduct trials. The orchard is already showing its potential to be a focus for commercial company trials that will benefit the industry.
This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Almond Fund