APAL European study tour, July 2006 (AP05027)
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What was it all about?
The primary focus of the study tour was to provide exposure of industry participants to leading edge orchard management techniques including tree training systems, hail net structures as well as packing shed management and technology. Comparative costs and the economics of production were also a keen area of investigation in all production areas visited. The experience has provided the group (who include some current industry leaders and a number of younger growers) an appreciation of accepted production practice in other important growing regions of the world and what is required to become globally competitive.
High density orchards on dwarfing rootstocks offer many benefits to growers, including ease of pruning, thinning and harvesting as well as higher productivity (yield). Most European growers store and pack their fruit through cooperatives or large commercial operations with benefits of economies of scale, marketing power and services to growers including orchard advisory services. First hand exposure of these operations to this study group provides an excellent means to transfer best practice systems with more urgency into the Australian industry.
Four major production areas were visited by the tour group which comprised 17 growers, a technical advisor from each of the two major Australian apple packing cooperatives, technical advisors from the Victorian and South Australian agriculture departments, a technical advisor from a commercial input supplier to horticultural industries and the Business Manager from Apple & Pear Australia Limited. Production systems were investigated in Switzerland, the Bodensee area in southern Germany, the South Tyrol region of Italy and southern France around Avignon – Montpellier. The French area was chosen as the climate is something more akin with conditions experienced in Australia while the other areas were chosen for the predominance and experience in high density orchard production.
The study tour will leave a lasting impression on participants, particularly the expansive use of intensive orchard systems in South Tyrol and Bodensee areas, the uniformity of orchards and the support mechanisms available to producers in the form of comprehensive advisory services and subsidies from the European Union. The netting structures erected in Europe are of a lighter and cheaper structure than seen in Australia and these may provide cost savings if they can be adapted to our conditions. Nursery tree production was a revelation to participants with European growers having ready access to high quality nursery trees at comparatively low prices to that available in Australia.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited).
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