Tuesday, 1 April 2014

South West of England Cider-makers Association

The Spring meeting of the South West of England Cider-makers Association was held at Thatcher’s, by kind invitation of John and Martin Thatcher.

After the appalling weather of the past months there is great concern about the health of the trees and what it might be possible to do about it. 

It is likely that the worst effects of the flooding will not be apparent until July or August, when the trees are at their most stressed and need their roots to provide nutrition.

Robert Fovargue of Pearce Seeds gave a very well received presentation in which he 
discussed some of the measures available to growers. 

Soil structure may have been damaged and poor drainage areas will be particularly apparent.

First do your annual soil sample to check your Ph levels. Simply applying nitrogen to your soil is not going to be enough if it is out of balance, lacking for example zinc or boron.

A more precise way of getting nitrogen into the plant is by applying a foliar feed which will filter down gently into the roots. Phosphite feeds are particularly worth looking at as they optimise plant metabolism and improve performance, especially if the plant is under stress. 

As the feed reaches the roots it will have picked up a further oxygen molecule, delivering what is then Phosphate to the roots.

Robert’s advice is to do what you normally do to feed the roots, but above that to feed the leaf rather than the soil. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Mechanical pruning

Robert Fovargue, the agronomist for Pearce Seeds, was kind enough to invite a group of Somerset growers to meet the Hereford contractor Rob Collins who has had a lot of experience with mechanical pruning.

Robert and John Worle first showed us round several orchards with trees at different ages and pruned in different ways, including mechanically.

We were intrigued by Rob Collins’ machinery, seen above.
Growers that have tried mechanical pruning are all continuing to experiment; none of them have rejected the method in favour of solely hand pruning. It tends to be done in the summer, after eight true leaves have formed. 

Hereford and Somerset do however have very different needs and it is clear that the vigour of the Hereford orchards is a great deal stronger than ours here in Somerset. With Hereford’s historical connections with hop growing and intensive horticultural production we have a lot to learn from them.

Although none of us in Somerset yet has the kit to try mechanical pruning we are keen to give it a go. Perhaps we can get Rob Collins to come down and give us a demonstration.

For an article by Rob Collins please see here
and for the YouTube video please see here

Monday, 17 February 2014

SIVAL, France

We were extremely impressed with the the SIVAL horticultural exhibition in Angers, France.

What caught our attention most was the sheer number of businesses that have a role to play in the industry. This is the largest horticultural exhibition in France and we certainly saw more apple related people, equipment and businesses in one place than we could ever dream of seeing in the UK. 

This is possible because of the participation of such high income generating businesses as the wine industry and we found lots of crossover innovations that we can use in our own business.

We have never come across a situation where we could see every single brand of orchard tractor in one place, but they were all here. 

We saw exhibits of everything from posts and wires to harvesting machinery and bottling equipment. 

It was not hard to get to and completely free to enter. Lots of business seemed to be being transacted and we met up with some old friends. 

We would encourage everybody to attend next year - perhaps we will hire a charabanc!

SIVAL and Vegepolys, France

Vegepolys is a symposium that takes place on 14 January 2014 during the SIVAL horticultural exhibition in Angers, France.

Working with GIS Fruits, a French consortium specialising in research, training and innovation, this year’s Vegepolys event is entitled Protection of Tomorrow’s Orchard and Pome Fruit.

The programme for 14 January starts at 2.00 and ends at 5.00. It will consist of presentations on orchard protection and fruit quality, sustainable production systems, post harvest problems and storage diseases.

Included is a presentation from IFPC (Institut Francais des Productions Cidricoles) on The Cider Orchard of Tomorrow.

The good news for non-French speakers is that simultaneous translation facilities are available with a headset.

SIVAL is a big trade exhibition taking in all aspects of the plant production business, including viticulture, horticulture, arboriculture, seeds, medicinal and aromatic plants, cider, mushrooms, vegetables and tobacco.

You have to register with SIVAL to attend the Vegepolys symposium and we must warn you that the SIVAL website is very difficult to navigate! Registration is free and there will be about 600 exhibitors.

We will report back in our January newsletter.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Nuffield Farming Scholarship for Neil Macdonald

It is with great pride that we announce that Orchard Groundcare’s Director, Neil 
Macdonald, has been awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship for 2014.

NUFFIELD is an organisation that awards individuals with life changing opportunities that span their personal and professional lives, with a view to developing agricultural sector leaders and innovators of the future.

Neil is taking as his topic Orcharding Systems for the Next Decade. He intends to 
research varieties and growing methods in Australia, USA and Europe with a view to providing the industry with information to help plan for a sustainable future.

All Nuffield Scholars are sponsored by industry bodies, associations, individuals and charities. Neil’s Scholarship will be sponsored by The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers.

We look forward to his Reports!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

New plantings at West Bradley Orchards

In last month’s newsletter we mentioned Neil Macdonald’s trip to a nursery in France to see how our order for 3000 Idared maidens was coming along. We are now preparing the ground at West Bradley Orchards to receive the trees, which should arrive in February.

Edward Clifton-Brown, the owner of West Bradley Orchards, is once again using the post and wire system that was so highly commended in the summer, when West Bradley won the award for the Best Cider Orchard in the South West at the Bath & West Society Show. 

In addition we are trialling the large scale use of compost produced to BSI PAS 100 specification. 

Recent results have shown that compost can increase the organic matter levels in the soil and improve its structure. It replaces fertiliser in the form of NPK, provides sulphur, magnesium and trace elements, and protects against adverse weather conditions, such as cold and wet.
When used as a mulch it has been shown to bring significant benefits to newly planted apple orchards as well as established ones.

We are sure this will improve the quality of our heavy Somerset soils, giving the young trees the best possible start in life and offering natural protection against diseases such as canker.

A study visit to a major French nursery

In August Neil Macdonald was part of a group of English growers who were invited by J R Breach, suppliers of fruit trees and root stocks, to visit the nurseries and orchards of Pepinieres du Valois at Villers-Cotterets in Northern France.

Neil reports “PdV is one of the largest apple nurseries in the world and the scale of the operation was absolutely amazing. The company is part of the International New Varieties Network (INN), founded in 1995, which specialises in the development of new fruit varieties worldwide. The membership of INN accounts for around 18 million finished trees and 38.5 million rootstocks annually.

I was pleased to be able to see some of the trees they are growing for us and very happy with progress to date.

It is always good to step outside the box and see what is happening elsewhere in the business. The rest of the group came mainly from Kent and the east of England and it was valuable to see things from their point of view. 

The area of french cider orchards is not going up and production is pretty much static, unlike ours. This year they are expecting a fair crop, with 80% of all cider fruit going through one processor.”