It’s been a hectic period for our cropping orchards over November with pollination, thinning, male pruning, summer pruning, and squeeze tipping, all before fruit sensitivity. This crucial time is when the rate of fruit growth and fruit sensitivity is the highest. Working on orchard during this period increases fruit loss at harvest due to physical damage and blemish. To ensure we have a low reject rate, we aim to have all canopy work completed by this time.
Because of this, SCH is careful to minimise unnecessary work on our cropping blocks and enter into a relatively quiet period on orchard; apart from the important girdling task. Girdling is the process of removing a ring from the plant to ensure that all nutrition stays in the canopy and in the fruit. During this time of the year, any excess energy is stored in the roots for dormancy. Girdling reduces this by removing the Phloem. This part of the plant sends nutrients and energy downwards. If it is removed, the plant simply sends it back up and utilise it somewhere else like the fruit. Multiple girdles have different effects. Some increase size, some increase sugars, and others increase dry matter. The affect is based on how many rounds have been completed, and what time during the summer they were completed.
In our establishment orchards, things are starting to ramp up. With all of this sunshine and occasional rain, the growth of the plants is strong and fast. Over the previous month, we have been training shoots and canes onto our strings which will be either our leaders of the plant, or the canopy canes. This depends on which stage of establishment the plant is at. Over the coming two months, we will be lowering our leaders to grow our canopy canes in the same year. This job sets the plant up for the rest of its life and can have major impacts on fruit quality and quantity if damaged or not done correctly. Dropping leaders is done across multiple stages and numerous rounds due to the growth development of some plants being faster than others.
Having leaders down before Christmas allows for cane growth and a fruiting canopy next year. Those plants which don’t achieve this will produce leaders only this year and produce canopy canes the following.The process of dropping leaders is slow and repetitive. First the leader must be removed from the string it is growing up, and then it must be placed into position without rubbing any wires. Once in position it must be taped, cut to spec, and have leaves removed to promote growth. This can be a process of five minutes per leader with each plant having two. With 1,000 plants per hectare on average, that’s 167 hours per hectare to manage all leaders.