ORCHARD NEWS FROM SOUTH AUCKLAND AND NORTHLAND

John Emett, Orchard Management and Grower Services, South Auckland and Northland

MATURITY
Maturities in the Far North have been slow to reach export levels compared with recent years. In some cases, they have moved backwards after cold and wet weather.

This is not unusual in the early part of the season.

Export picking is under way however across a number of orchards as the new season gathers momentum.

IN THE FIELD
There is a higher than normal percentage of ridging on fruit coming through the packing shed. The most common school of thought on the cause is cold and wind events during the early development of the fruitlets that irritate the skin. From what I have seen, fruit from the Far North to the Bay of Plenty have been affected.

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Ridging on fruit.

ORCHARD DEVELOPMENT
Orchard development is still continuing in the northern region from the Kaipara Harbour to Houhora. Tapora, located on the edge of the Kaipara Harbour, will have around 600 hectares in the ground in the next two years, and it is difficult to estimate the area in the Far North as there is continual talk of new projects that are planned, but I would say there could be 800 hectares of development.

I was on a block in Kaikohe recently where they have the unusual problem of large volumes of volcanic rock to deal with in setting out the new part of the orchard. To combat this, the rock is rowed up then removed by machinery. The planting line is still quite rocky despite this process. The older trees on this orchard were in very good health and producing well.

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Large volumes of rock to deal with.

HEALTH AND SAFETY
It is timely to remind everyone of health and safety on the orchard, given that harvesting from mobile elevating work platforms is one of the more dangerous tasks performed on the block. One grower even went to level of making sure the dog was as safe as it could be! Give thought to pruning and spraying as well. Both are activities with a reasonable level of risk.

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Pets involved in Health and Safety at work.

MICROBIAL ACTIVITY
I have taken a soil microbial test from one orchard to assess the level of fungi and bacteria and the ratio of each. Avocados prefer a fungi dominated environment, as do all tree crops.

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A sign of fungal activity on the orchard.

Humate products, such as good quality humic acid, which may be added with any other fertiliser; and fish hydrolysate are all useful at feeding soil fungi. There are a number of growers choosing this additional testing to look at every opportunity to make improvements in tree health and production.

A healthy fungal population helps with nutrient up take as there is a symbiotic relationship between the fungi and roots.

BLACK STAINING ON FRUIT
The black staining on fruit, that has been prevalent in Whangarei and Mangawhai, has shown up again late in the season. The incidence of the staining is considerably less this year than the last two, most likely due to the dry summer. The staining that has showed up after the rainfall that fell in autumn. NZ Avocado is looking into what causes the staining with assistance from scientists. In a bad season, growers can lose up to 50% in rejects with this problem.

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Black staining appearing again in whangarei.

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