Apple and pear grower study tour to Europe, 2004 (AP03029)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
Different approaches to tree training, irrigation management techniques, a method to estimate desired crop load and fruit per branch, the widespread use of presizing equipment in packhouses, the availability of high quality nursery trees, the benefits of a strong extension service and some unusual machinery were just a few of the areas that stood out amongst the many things seen during the recent apple and pear industry study tour to Europe.
The purpose of the tour was to expose industry members to leading edge orchard management techniques and packing shed management and technology. High density orchards on dwarfing rootstocks offer many benefits to growers, as it is easier to pick, prune and thin fruit taking less time and labour, and early high productivity (commercial crops of 30t/ha by third leaf at least) can be achieved. Most European growers have their fruit stored and packed through cooperatives or large commercial businesses, with benefits from economies of scale, marketing power and services to growers including orchard advisory services.
Four major growing areas were visited by eight growers and the apple and pear Industry Development Manager – the Bodensee area on the shores of Lake Constance in southern Germany, Bolzano in the South Tyrol region of Italy, the Lleida and Girona areas in southern Spain and southern France around Nimes and Avignon.
Most European apple-growing areas have been using high density growing techniques for 30-40 years and have it down to a fine art. Spain and France were included on the tour because their climates are hotter and light levels are higher and more similar to many of Australia’s growing areas.
Tour participants were very impressed by the uniformity of the tree training in orchards and the fruit quality, the knowledge of the consultants who acted as guides, the effort tour hosts put into the programs organised and their hospitality.
The information participants brought back will be put into practice in their own operations, particularly in planting density, nursery tree specifications, training systems and packing shed layouts. The level of European knowledge of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) pushed by restrictions on chemical use in the EU also impressed participants.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited).
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