I am only new to the Australian Almond industry, but I have quickly come to realise that the fundamental rules of growing still applies, light, water, nutrition all play key parts in optimising crop potential. One critical factor in achieving maximum yields of high quality almonds, and maximising orchard profitability, is ensuring that light is being farmed correctly.
If you are not maximising your light interception you are not able to maximise your yield. If you are growing a very dense canopy that is not able to sustain fruiting buds in a large proportion in the lower canopy then yield or quality potential is also reduced. It is also extremely important that optimised light interception is achieved with a cost efficient and cost effective focus.
The CT trial carried out by the ABA has some fantastic information on changing use patterns of different orchard practices such as nutrition and water management and their influence on canopy development. Look at the canopies below and the different light interception and canopy densities that exist.
To get the best out of your canopy it is important to understand what it is you are trying to achieve.
- What will my perfect canopy look like? Where do I see one?
- How am I going to get the correct balance between developing canopy quickly and then keeping good light penetration throughout the canopy?
- What is my plan to make sure I can get to my perfect canopy, at the correct speed and in the most efficient and effective way?
- What, when and how am I going to measure within each block to ensure that what I am achieving through the life time of the crop is going according to the plan?
- What is my plan to change management decisions once I look at the information I have measured and realise that I am heading off track?
OrchardNet® – Metrics (measuring the what, when and how)
OrchardNet® is a data collection and management tool that helps growers to collect and report key information allowing professional growers to track their orchard performance at an in depth level and providing support for their orchard management plans.
The Metrics area of OrchardNet® has been set up to collect specific data over time to check your historical management decisions are keeping you on the right path as well as providing direction for future management decisions.
It is important that orchard measurements are taken at the correct time of the season.
When should I be collecting specific data and why?
All of the date specific data is relatively straight forward:
- Early bud swell
- Early pink bud date
- Early bloom date
- Full bloom date
- Early pit hardening
- First hull split date
- Theoretical harvest date
- First shake date
- First stockpile date
Recording the dates of all of these stages could be useful for different parts of the almond production process.
Bud swell is important as it is the first tree movement and can help to get a read on how early or late the season might pan out. Identifying accurate harvest dates can help with all sorts of logistics scenarios such as staffing of orchards and production facilities, trucking etc.
Flowering dates can be useful for timing of bees or pollination overlap of different varieties, as well as further confirmation of predicted potential harvest, expanded or contracted flowering periods might lead to more mixed maturity or nut size at harvest.
Key dates such as hull split can also be useful for identifying the correct timing of pest or disease sprays, as well as in a forensic type role when looking for when or why pest or disease might have occurred.
Specific developmental stages might help with identifying key timings for changes in fertiliser or irrigation management decisions (pit hardening/hull split etc.). This might be part of your vigour management plan that helps minimise the need for winter pruning or decreases excessive shading and a subsequent drop in nut production or quality.
Harvest dates – Such as theoretical harvest, first shake date and first stock pile date can help with the planning and logistics of larger orchards. If you start a week late is it likely you might not get finished before late season weather really starts to make work more difficult. What management changes can be put in place early to try to minimise the effects?
The Metrics data (Figure 1) should be able to help you with many different areas within your almond growing business. I am hoping you are able to see lots of interesting trends in this fictional data.
In this example it looks like the 2015 season is tracking a lot like the 2014 year did. This season ended up in his data with a later harvest date.
What could a later season mean for the orchard and post-harvest businesses?
- Can this effect pest and disease control? What could you do differently?
- What does it mean for harvest and post-harvest logistics?
- The data is predicting a large and late crop? Is this all blocks? Do you need to plan for this?
- Could a later harvest change your weather risk? Can you do anything about this?
- Is it likely to affect nut size or quality?
- Is a late season likely to have any effect on next year’s crop? How should I manage this?
Learning from historical experience teamed up with key information can give you the ability to fine tune your management plans and make the correct decisions that are needed before things get really busy.
In the next article we’ll take a look at our new irrigation use reports.