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Ensuring persimmon growers are equipped with vital information

Publication date: 14 November 2022

Strong communication and technical support is vital for persimmon growers and other industry participants to be able to make informed decisions for their businesses.

The investment Persimmon industry communications and extension program (PR20000) delivers effective and timely communications to ensure Australian persimmon growers and other industry stakeholders are kept up to date with the latest R&D outcomes, marketing activities, and other industry news and information. In communicating R&D, the ultimate goal is to lead to practice change for growers, boosting productivity and profitability.

Delivered by Persimmons Australia, the program produces a range of communications to assist growers and employs a part-time Industry Development Officer responsible for improving the circulation and uptake of information within the industry.

As part of the program, a new webinar series has begun to inform persimmon growers about a range of important topics. The first webinar, ‘Pruning Persimmons’, featured explanatory videos on pruning ‘Grantham Orchards Style’ and a radical pruning trial to manage old Fuyus.

Persimmon growers Rod Dalton and Chris Stillard were online to discuss their pruning techniques and answer questions from the audience.

The webinar was extremely successful, with around 35 attendees across 26 businesses participating. There are around 80 persimmon growers in Australia and the high-level engagement in the webinar exceeded expectations and the projects KPI of attendance by 20 per cent of known growers.

An online survey was distributed to gather feedback and attendees rated the webinar as 4.25 out of 5 stars, indicated that it was highly likely that they would apply something they learned during the webinar to their business. Respondents liked how many people had taken an interest in the webinar and suggested that it was a great opportunity to communicate, listen and learn from others – one even saying it was the next best thing to an on-site field trip!

Meet Mark and Damien Silm, persimmon growers

Mark Silm and his son Damien grow apples, peaches, nectarines and persimmons at their property, Cedar Creek Orchard, in southwest Sydney.

They have 50 hectares, with 23 planted out to the various types of fruit. For persimmons, they grow Jiro and Fuyu varieties, with about 4800 trees planted of each variety.

Mark recently participated in Persimmons Australia’s webinar on pruning, and we spoke to him about his experience.

Why did you decide to attend the Pruning Persimmons webinar?

You’re never too old to learn! Many farmers get stuck in doing what they’ve always done, but I think it never hurts to see if there is something I can learn. My ideas about pruning and what you should or shouldn’t do are based on 40 years of growing persimmons, but when I saw a webinar about pruning, I was keen to attend.

Pruning is one of our most critical jobs, if not the most critical job. How you prune is very important, as this is a key factor in determining crop load. So, we thought, “why not see if there is something new to learn.”

We invited our staff to come along too, as we saw the potential for us to learn together, which we wouldn’t have been able to do if it wasn’t online. Because it was, we could easily say, “okay, let’s go inside, turn the TV on and see what we can learn”. It was great to be able to engage our staff in this opportunity.

Did you learn anything from the webinar?

It was an opportunity too important to pass up, as pruning is a critical job, and the webinar was timed perfectly for when we were starting to think about it. We learned that we were on the right track with our pruning but did learn some little tips that changed how we approached some of our pruning cuts this year. Based on the discussions, I also thought that if I were to plant more persimmons, I would increase my tree spacing from four to five metres.

What has been the benefit of attending?

Well, we are pruning right now, so we are yet to see the benefit of our change pruning practices on productivity and quality. But we gained greater confidence in our approach to pruning, and with increased confidence comes speed and efficiency.

The staff thoroughly enjoyed the training, and they got a greater understanding of why we prune the way we do. The other great thing is that because it was online, it is still available to watch – so it’s easy for us to get a refresher or to show a new staff member.

I’m also looking forward to a follow-up because another persimmon grower, Chris Stillard, decided to make radical changes to some of his trees. I’m really interested to see how they fare. The way this program allows us to learn from each other and share our experiences is invaluable.

“You’re never too old to learn! Many farmers get stuck in doing what they’ve always done, but I think it never hurts to see if there is something I can learn.” Mark Silm, persimmon grower, Sydney NSW