Narrow orchard systems for future climates (AS22002)
What's it all about?
This program is establishing research sites across the country to determine whether transitioning to narrower orchard systems could benefit pome and stone fruits.
Narrow orchard systems feature two-metre spaces between rows of trees while keeping the canopy narrow to expose fruit and leaves to enough sunlight to maximise yield and fruit quality. This approach is attractive to field workers and amenable to robotics, automation and sensing technologies, and has the potential to use less labour, energy and increase the efficiency of inputs.
The research team will estimate the benefits of transitioning to narrow orchard systems and are anticipating gains in marketable yield as well as the accuracy and efficiency of sensing and robot orchard operations (such as crop load estimation, pruning, thinning, pest and disease monitoring, and fruit picking) in the narrow row orchards compared to existing tree training systems.
In addition to field experiments, the project will also undertake an economic study to determine the profitability of transitioning to narrow orchard systems. It will compare the benefits and costs to current standard practices within the industry.