Brett Drescher of Washington (left) and Chris Kropf of Michigan discuss the phenomenal production at Richard Hoddy's orchard.

Brett Drescher of Washington (left) and Chris Kropf of Michigan discuss the phenomenal production at Richard Hoddy’s orchard.

Members of the International Fruit Tree Association were stunned when they visited Richard Hoddy’s orchard in Nelson, New Zealand.

Hoddy showed the group a block of Braeburn on M.793 rootstocks that consistently produces more than 100 tons per hectare (100 bins per acre) of large fruit.

Hoddy struggles to get fruit size down to the 105-count size that his customers prefer, he said. In 2005, the block produced 115 tons per hectare (115 bins per acre). In 2006, it yielded 105 tons per hectare, and Hoddy expected yields of more than 100 tons per hectare this season.

"This is almost surreal," said Sam DiMaria, a grower from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. "I could hardly imagine this much fruit."

"It’s a dream orchard," said Krzysztof Hermanowicz from Mogielnica, Poland.

Hoddy said it’s difficult to pull out old, yet productive blocks because it takes so long to recoup the cost of changing over, so he’s been expanding his acreage and planting Mahara Red Braeburn on Malling 9.

He is New Zealand’s largest grower of Jazz, which he’s been producing for about six years. Other varieties he grows include Tentation (Delblush), Pink Lady, Cox, Gala, Eve, and New Zealand Beauty.

Brett Drescher of Auvil Fruit Company in Orondo, Washington, was impressed by the whole orchard. "It has the right varieties and right size. For the conditions here, you cannot do any better. That’s what you call getting the most out of your orchard."

DiMaria noted that under New Zealand’s "gentle" climate, the trees still have foliage for four or five weeks after harvest. During that time, the trees can relocate nutrients into storage that will be available to the developing buds for the following season.

"The production is absolutely phenomenal. We could not get 100 bins per acre and have 100 bins again the following year," he said. "They have no extremes of temperature, but enough chilling hours."

"It’s not hard to get passionate about apples in Nelson," remarked Craig Hornblow, who works with Hoddy as a consultant. "Growers are extremely passionate about what they do."