In the orchard over the next few months, we plan to start setting up our canopy in both establishment and cropping blocks to produce for the 2023/24 season. This is an important time of the year as it lays the foundations for yields and quality for the next year.
As plants start to drop their leaves and go into dormancy, it provides the perfect opportunity to make cuts without promoting unwanted growth and maintain synchronization at budbreak.
In establishment, we are beginning to lay down leaders that did not meet the criteria pre-Christmas. The leader is the main structure that the lateral fruiting canes come off. The leaders need to meet a spec to ensure they are not too weak. A weak leader can result in small canes which will struggle to produce fruit and will stress the plant too much. We are also beginning to cutback our orchards that were planted over summer or have not produced sufficient leaders. Cutbacks are utilised to allow for the roots to grow and develop over the growing season and then produce two shoots from buds on the stem once we cut these back during dormancy. During budbreak in August/September, we will see these buds fire and become future leaders.
In cropping blocks, winter pruning is our biggest task and takes the longest amount of time of any tasks we complete in a season. Winter pruning consists of replacing last year’s canes with newer and more vigorous canes and canopy cover. Old wood does not produce fruit as well and makes it challenging to achieve our targets. During winter pruning, we set crop targets based on the number of buds in a bay and how many buds we want to achieve for flowering and pollination. Bud numbers are the difference between overcropping which produces small and immature fruit, and under cropping which produces overmature and large fruit. These outcomes are not conclusive for the most successful harvest. We aim for a perfect balance of crop yield and size profile.