Improved tree and fruit nutrition for the Australian apple industry (AP14023)
What was it all about?
This investment, which ran from 2015 to 2020, delivered a user-friendly decision-support tool to assist apple growers across the country in optimising irrigation and fertigation application, referred to as ‘SINATA’ – the Strategic Irrigation and Nitrogen Assessment Tool for Apples.
This research and the SINATA tool are being used in the current PIPS 3 project Improved Australian apple and pear orchard soil health and plant nutrition (AP19006) as the basis of a user-friendly web app that will provide growers and consultants with practical, easy to use irrigation and nutrient management tools and resources that can be accessed in the field.
This four-year research program extended fertigation trials from PIPS 1, established 15N whole tree recovery trials and a N, P and K fertigation trial, characterised soils from 40 different orchards from five apple growing regions and produced a decision support tool to assist grower and advisors strategically manage their nitrogen and irrigation resources. Key growers and advisors from across the Australian apple growing industry provided valuable insight into project activities ensuring appropriateness and relevance.
This research project completed the first industry wide or multi-state assessment of soil health and soil-water characteristics of Australia’s apple growing soils (www.applesoils.com), and learnt that (i) the structure or physical health (and therefore most likely the biological health) of apple growing soils varies widely between sites, even within the same soil order; and (ii) many sites were suffering from loss of soil carbon, surface compaction and sealing, loss of readily available soil water for sustaining growth and loss of tightly held water which provides resilience to moisture stress during drought.
The development of SINATA incorporated research findings on (i) tree water use from PIPS I and PIPS 2; (ii) multi-season nitrogen dynamics learned from the fertigation and 15N trials; and (iii) soil physical, chemical and hydrological data from orchards across five main apple growing regions.
Awareness and findings of the project were extended via a wide range of platforms including national conferences and workshops, international conferences, articles in Australian Fruit Grower and Industry Juice and through the Future Orchards walks.
This project was funded through the Hort Innovation Apple and Pear Fund using the apple and pear R&D levy and contributions from the Australian Government
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