Friday, 08 November 2019 07:55

Will apple trees replace pines in North Canterbury?

Written by  Staff Reporters
Ngãi Tahu Farming business development manager Ben Giesen. Ngãi Tahu Farming business development manager Ben Giesen.

Apple trees could be replacing pines in North Canterbury.

Ngāi Tahu Farming has ordered tree stocks for planting a trial orchard in the Culverden/Balmoral area in 2021. The initial 15ha commercial pipfruit orchard could be the first in the wider Amuri Basin.

The area is known for long, hot, fine days and low rainfall. 

Local farmers have been known to grow fruit trees successfully for home consumption and it was partly this knowledge that prompted Ngāi Tahu Farming to consider trialling horticulture as an option in the area.

Ngāi Tahu Farming has at least 9000ha of pine forest and beef in Amuri Basin, but it has been looking at alternative land-uses for several years.

A Plant and Food Research study found the local soils and temperature extremes could potentially suit a range of horticultural options.

Ngāi Tahu Farming business development manager Ben Giesen told Hort News that following the Plant & Food study, data showed one limiting factor for orcharding in Amuri Basin was the relatively short number of growing temperature days. The data indicated Culverden was at the lower end of the accepted range, meaning the fruit would not grow to the size it did in other regions.

An ongoing trial, now in its third year, is showing positive signs across a range of horticultural crops being trialled.

Working with outside advisors including Plant and Food and Fruitfed Supplies, Ngāi Tahu Farming first prepared its old pine country for horticulture. The company planted a 2.5ha trial orchard, mostly stonefruit, olives and nut trees. 

The trial trees did reasonably well in the first year, though it was soon apparent the orchard would need better water infrastructure and wind protection to thrive, Giesen said.

A Ngāi Tahu Farming team including orchard manager John Blackadder sought support and advice from Fruitfed Supplies and AgFirst consultants on spray and fertiliser programmes, different irrigation and trellis systems and application rates.

In the second year of the trial the focus turned to apples as the company planted Envy, Jazz, Galaxy, Lady in Red, and some berries, nut trees, stonefruit and olives. 

The following year Ngāi Tahu Farming and its advisors started monitoring growth rates to get hard data about how these trees perform in the area. Growth rates varied from 600-800mm, with the majority between 700-800mm. 

By then the trees were doing well and the company felt confident it was planting in the right conditions. About four months ago, Ngāi Tahu Farming asked itself the crunch question, could an orchard be commercially viable?

After an extensive search, the new orchard developers managed to secure about 40,000 trees for 2021, enough for a 15ha site.

Giesen said they would initially have enough tree stock to plant 15ha. Apples would be the initial focus, but stonefruit was also a possibility and the company was taking advice on production and pathways to market.

Final requirements to allow the trial block to run as a commercial orchard have finished, including the installation of an Orchard-Rite wind machine to counter the area’s biggest orchard risk – frosts. 

The installation of NIWA weather monitoring stations, in key locations, will allow data to be collected to help mitigate other potentially damaging climatic risks – such as Canterbury’s infamous nor-wester winds.

More like this

Optimism for apple and pear exporter

Ideal pre-season conditions and growing markets are buoying JR's Orchards (JR's) pear and apple exports, against challenges of the global pandemic and geo-political tensions in Europe.

$25.5 million for tech to 'transform forestry'

An innovative high-tech approach to forestry management could transform New Zealand’s forestry industry, Forestry Minister Stuart Nash and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

Hort heads for new heights

Pretty impressive - that's how Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor describes MPI's latest prediction that horticulture exports will hit the record $7 billion mark in 2023.

Tree protectors made from trees!

Seeing plastic tree protectors in the forest prompted a Christchurch cardboard packaging manufacturer to try something different - and now the business is booming.

Marketing blast for Rockit

Gaining momentum from the global roll-out of its new brand in July, NZ fruit company Rockit has recently launched its biggest sales and marketing campaign.

National

Partnership to reduce ag emissions

The Government will commit $710 million over the next four years to accelerate efforts to lower agricultural emissions, expand the…

Machinery & Products

A new approach to apprenticeships

By taking a new approach to its apprenticeship programme, agricultural equipment supplier Norwood says it is ensuring farmers’ machinery will…

Buck-Rake does the job

With many self-propelled forage harvester manufacturers offering machines hitting 1000hp, the bottleneck in any harvesting system is always likely to…

Pigtail standards made to last

Feedback from farmers highlighted frustration at the time and cost involved in frequently replacing failed pigtail posts.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Say what?

OPINION: This old mutt almost choked while chewing his bone when he happened upon the latest politically-correct advice that’s been…

Why bother?

OPINION: A mate of the Hound’s recently applied for membership with Ashburton-based farm supply co-operative Ruralco.

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter