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Completed project

Experimental summerfruit orchard – phase II (SF17006)

Key research provider: The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)
Publication date: Monday, August 28, 2023

What was it all about?

From 2017 to 2023, this program provided reliable, scientific-based, local information on key orchard management factors to improve fruit quality for the summerfruit industry. 

Orchard factors investigated included crop load, rootstocks, canopy design and deficit irrigation. The experimental Summerfruit orchard at Tatura SmartFarm provided data for best management production protocols for these orchard factors for peach, nectarine, plum and apricot.

The world-class Stonefield Field Laboratory (also known as the Summerfruit Experimental Orchard) was established at DEDJTR-Tatura in Victoria under an earlier Hort Innovation Summerfruit Fund investment.

The experimental orchard presented a go-to demonstration site for growers, the horticultural industry, and other stakeholders such as education (university, secondary, primary), government (federal, state, local), catchment management and water authorities, and agricultural (corporate, consultants, nutrition, ag chemical, international agencies) sectors. The orchard provided the platform for improved horticultural networks and cross-industry collaboration.

The project identified that crop load management is critical for high fruit quality. Dwarfing rootstocks provided vegetative vigour control and good yield and fruit size outcomes. Regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) maintained yield and fruit quality and reduced irrigation by up to 40 per cent. Vase canopy systems produced greater vegetative growth and tree vigour (pruning biomass, trunk growth, leader growth) than Vertical Leader and Tatura Trellis canopy systems. The supporting structure (i.e. posts and wires) in both the Vertical Leader and Tatura Trellis systems provided the capacity for higher fruit number per tree in the early years of tree establishment and, consequently, greater cumulative yields.

The project results were disseminated through field tours, roadshows, industry workshops, grower magazine articles, conference presentations, science-based best management practice protocols, scientific publications and a suite of online resources and information, including newsletters, webinars, virtual orchard tours, YouTube videos, annual production and fruit quality reports and time-series photos of orchard and crop management factors.

Related levy funds

This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Summerfruit Fund