80 years of research in the Goulburn Valley (part 6)

In the 1970s, the industry was facing a difficult time with increasing costs, returns for fruit rising slowly, and uncertain markets.

Rising costs, falling returns for growers (cont from last issue)
In the 1970s, the industry was facing a difficult time with increasing costs, returns for fruit rising slowly, and uncertain markets. Most orchardists were trying to survive—times were tough, returns were low.
The Tatura Horticultural Research Station needed to find ways of increasing profits for fruit production in the GV and the MV in north-central Victoria.
Productivity and cost of production had been running neck-and-neck in existing orchards for some time, and this worsened each year.
Research needed for solutions
Our research had to decrease cost of production of new orchards, not existing orchards.
The savings in existing orchards would generally have been too small, and costs were escalating quickly.
The two simplest solutions to cutting costs were:
to bring down the cost of production, that is, highest yield per unit of costs, rather than per unit of land
to obtain high yields early in the life of the planting, so costs could be recouped quickly.
Solution found in systems research
Close planting, tree arrangement, a support structure and an emphasis on tree training, provided those solutions.
A high-density orchard is an intensive orchard. A fruit tree has a bearing portion (foliage and fruiting buds) and a support portion (trunk and branches).
In a high-density orchard, more of the space is devoted to bearing and less to support. Therefore we needed to develop a new research method at the Station.
It was critical that we added a strategic focus to research activities. Sure, we needed more research, but we also needed better research. That premise underlies the approach of a new way of doing research, called systems research.
The only way of decreasing costs in Australia was through technical development. So the Tatura Horticultural Research Station aimed to develop technical efficiency in several ways to increase productivity of GV and MV orchards.
(cont next month)

See this article in Tree Fruit May 2019

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