The biggest cost to growers, when you consider the question of orchard architecture from a financial perspective, is the time out of production — not labor, packing or freight, said Craig Hornblow, a horticultural consultant specializing in apples for AgFirst in New Zealand.
Other countries, such as Italy, are seeing their average yields going up because they are getting their orchards into production more quickly by employing simpler orchard systems.
And lost production time is the biggest cost that growers have to drive out of their business, he said. Orchardists today are growing four-, three- and two-dimensional canopies, yet, “we still have to just keep getting simpler. I’m convinced of that.”
Still, it’s not just about yield. Growers must also produce high-quality fruit, delivered at a size and in a variety that marketers can sell.
That means the orchard system needs to not only be simple — narrow, 3- to 5-foot rows with 50 percent shade — and accessible, attractive to work in and platform friendly, but also productive at 90 to 100 bins per hectare of targeted fruit, he said.
“It’s about execution. It’s excellent execution, attention to detail. It’s really difficult to do. You have to break it down into small units, but it’s doing the right job at the right time consistently,” he said.
And, he added, the new range of orchard systems, whether it’s two-dimensional or a V-trellis, gets growers much closer to that reality. •
– by Shannon Dininny