As we come out of winter into the season of new beginnings, our kiwifruit vines are pushing out new buds to form leaders and lateral canopy canes in establishment orchards, and fruiting shoots and replacement cane in cropping orchards. Because of this, it is an important season for orchards to be protected from nature such as birds, snails, and frosts.
Birds love to eat the buds, and particularly the red kiwifruit buds. To protect our new buds from birds, we use bird bangers which generate a loud bang throughout the day, bird acoustics which simulate larger bird noises and predator birds. There are also less-abrasive approaches such as long grass, shiny tassels in the canopy, fake large birds, and spray applications to the canopy. These are all methods used in the industry to protect the future crop.
As mentioned, we also need to protect our orchards from frosts. This is due to the potential of a frost freezing and burning buds resulting in them not firing and generating anything in the season. This can impact a whole season if there is no protection. To protect from frost, we use frost fans which mix the inversion layer of the atmosphere and pull warm air through the orchard, water systems which apply water to the orchard at a temperature warmer than the air temperature. We also use helicopters to blow away the cold air and pull down the warm air.
These methods of frost protection require all night monitoring of orchard temperatures to ensure automatic systems are working correctly, as well as heading to site and working through the night to monitor all systems are operational without fault. As the industry experienced last year, a frost can be devastating if systems fail, and owners can lose a whole orchard to frost burning.
For the past month, we have focused our attention on our red kiwifruit orchards due to their earlier bud break and sensitivity. Throughout September, we will move into gold and green kiwifruit frost protection. Frost season can last up to three months from August through to the end of October.