Tour shares orchard ideas

By Country News

A quartet of Goulburn Valley locals have returned from a Canadian tour spent sharing knowledge regarding farm and orchard management with their overseas counterparts.

Seeka Australia’s Bunbartha orchard manager John Van Popering, team leader and horticultural consultant Les Mitchell, Goulburn Murray Valley regional Queensland fruit fly co-ordinator Ross Abberfield and GV Crop Protection pest and disease specialist Elizabeth Mace took part in the three-week tour.

Initiated following a visit from four Canadian horticulturists last year, the group spent three weeks exploring research facilities, markets, multiple planting systems and packhouses as part of the Rotary Vocational Training Tour.

Ms Mace said the visit had borne fruit.

‘‘The one thing that was really striking was how interwoven government R&D, universities and farmers were ... There’s lots of investment in R&D,’’ she said.

With many operations growing peanuts, tobacco, ginseng or berries, Ms Mace said the state didn’t rival Victoria in terms of apples and pears, but some things were universal.

‘‘They have a lot of the same growing challenges — labour, market access and water issues,’’ she said.

‘‘Some of their practices are right up there ... there’s lots that can be implemented, there’s some very sophisticated spraying techniques that can be adopted.’’

With heavy snows and harsh weather conditions for farmers to battle, Ms Mace said growers could face some tough obstacles in the region, and biosecurity continued to be a focus.

Through her work focusing on integrated pest management, Ms Mace said it was fascinating to see how another country tackled the problem — and she was left impressed by how well the Goulburn Valley stacked up.

While many farmers are working on improving their current enterprises, Ms Mace said they saw a number of examples of people already looking towards the future.

One particular orchardist had already prepared for robots to enter the industry, having planted trees at a high density of about 3625 trees per hectare on his 194ha property.

‘‘He’s planted it completely ready for robot picking in about five years,’’ Ms Mace said.

Overall, Ms Mace said the trip was ‘‘priceless’’ and left much information to be processed and implemented.