The Global Picture IFTA tours and conferences give fruit growers around the world opportunities to share their knowledge.
IFTA members tour the nursery of Reid Fruits in Tasmania.
In the global tree fruit business, there is no room for complacency. North American fruit growers worry about competition from other parts of the world. Turns out, that's exactly what growers in other parts of the world are concerned about, too.
The International Fruit Tree Association's annual conferences draw fruit growers together from around the world to discuss key issues that are affecting the tree fruit industry globally.
When the IFTA started out 50 years ago as the Dwarf Fruit Tree Association, its primary focus was learning how to grow fruit more efficiently, taking advantage of dwarfing rootstocks to plant trees more intensively. Since its early days, it has organized many study tours for orchardists to major apple-growing regions of the world to enable them
to learn from others and share their knowledge.
In 2000, the association took the bold step of going to New Zealand for its annual conference, the first time it had been held outside North America. In 2004, the conference was held in the South Tyrol area of Italy. In February, I attended the 2007 conference in Tasmania, Australia, which drew 300 participants from 14 countries.
While high-density orchard systems are still an important theme of IFTA conferences today, the association is tackling a whole range of critical issues, such as new variety development, marketing, reducing pesticide input, using less water, and organic production. The conferences and accompanying field tours provide glimpses into how growers are coping in the world's various fruit-growing regions. The similarities tend to be more striking than the differences.
The island of Tasmania, Australia's most southerly apple-producing region, is ruggedly beautiful with a cool, changeable climate. Forestry has been a major industry, though more than a third of the island is preserved as national parks and wilderness. Forest was cleared in the nineteenth century to make way for apple production. Once proud to be the major apple producer and exporter in the Southern Hemisphere, Tasmania lost that distinction because of increasing production from South America in recent decades.
Tasmanian growers have shaken off their complacency and identified their new niche in the world produce business. As the stories in this issue illustrate, they're growing fewer apples and increasing production of large, high quality cherries that they can put on the market when no others are available from any other place in the world. Tasmania still has a vibrant fruit industry, but it's smaller and different.
This year's postconference tour took us to the South Island of New Zealand, where growers have been able to produce phenomenal apple tonnage without using dwarfing rootstocks, thanks to a climate that is particularly conducive to fruit growing. Inspired by the evolution to intensive orchard systems they've seen in Italy's South Tyrol area, New Zealand growers are making a rapid shift to dwarfing rootstocks so they can quickly bring new orchards into production. The industry is moving and changing, with new apple plantings going in at the rate of a million trees a year.
In the Central Otago region of New Zealand's South Island, where most of the country's cherries and soft fruits are grown, orchards are interspersed with vineyards, sheep farms, and deer farms, set against a backdrop of spectacular lakes and mountains.
New Zealand growers are obviously proud of and passionate about what they do. They are determined
to maintain their industry's place as an important fruit exporter by keeping a step ahead in terms of variety development and using inventive techniques to deliver what the global market demands. Complacent, they