At the beginning of September local Bramley growers met at the orchards of Mr Edmund Allen, Grange Farm, Annagora Road, Portadown, to see and hear about some of the latest innovations in spray application, crop hygiene and fruit storage regimes for top fruit production.
The workshop was organised by CAFRE in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Fruit Growers Association (NIFGA) and was hosted by Mr Allen, a NIFGA committee member, on his orchards. New orchard sprayer technology was demonstrated using a Tifone ’ Vector 1000’ air assisted sprayer with electrostatic induction, which charges the emerging spray droplets, so they will be attracted to the tree targets. In this way, the use of finer nozzles is possible to give enhanced leaf cover while avoiding the risk of increased drift. This field demonstration generated a lot of interest and Edmund combined it with a walk through his orchards, which was a very informative tour for the visitors. On display were some of the latest bird scarers available including kites, electronic call kits and laser torches.
Edmund has recently renovated two of his apple stores, re-cladding the ceilings and ensuring seals and joints are sound before the new storage season. He explained his store management regime to the audience, including the necessity of rapid filling prior to ‘Smartfresh’ (1-MCP) treatment, and the advantage of incorporating the ‘Fresh Extend’ ethylene removal system in the latter stages of the storage period. In fact, he had only unloaded the last of his stored 2014 fruit last month and the growers were able to view some of this fruit as it had just emerged from store.
These technological themes were complemented by presentations from a number of guest speakers. Mr Simon Townsend of BASF reviewed the fungicide choices which can help to minimise fruit storage rots, and provided some useful data on the performance of ‘Regalis Plus’, a growth regulator on fruit set in borderline years, as occurred in 2015.
Mr Mark Staplehurst and Mr Geoff Mills Bower of ActivSure outlined the production principles and hygiene applications for their electrolysed water product, which has been successfully used for non-chemical microbe control in hospitals and other public areas, and which may now be used to treat fruit, to reduce rot fungi and bacterial contamination.
Kieran Lavelle, of CAFRE’s Crops, Horticulture and Sustainability Branch, then drew the formal meeting to a close with a summary of scab disease periods over 2015. Kieran also gave an update on the NI Rural Development Programme (RDP) for 2014-2020 highlighting measures within the programme of potential benefit to top fruit producers. This concluded a very fruitful and well supported workshop, which gave all those attending plenty to consider.