Twice as many apples per hectare over traditional methods
New Zealand apple orchards to take a big leap forward
New Zealand apple orchards are getting a makeover, thanks to Hawke’s Bay Plant and Food scientists. They have developed systems that grow up to twice as many apples per hectare over traditional methods.The secret is to design orchards that capture more sunlight through closer rows of trees that don’t cast as much shade on themselves. Plant & Food Principal Scientist Stuart Tustin said traditional orchards were inefficient at utilising sunshine. “We knew there was potential because more than 40 percent of the sun energy available through a season was not currently being used by current orchard designs. So we were interested to see if we could redesign the orchard to capture more energy, which should translate into more productivity. Typically very good orchards in our country are producing between 80 and 100 tonnes per hectare.”
“The project is in its seventh year. None of our trees are completely mature but so far progress has been encouraging. When our trees are fully mature we are hoping – and our date is projecting – that we will be somewhere in that range between 160 and 200 tonnes per hectare.”
Two-dimensional trees have been around for several years but the trial’s tree shape has brought further gains in addition to closer rows.
The longer an apple is on a tree in the new system, the bigger the gain, so varieties that ripen later in the season can achieve double the harvest. The late-season larger varieties such as Envy and Fuji would most probably enjoy the greatest production boost.