Riverina apple orchards get the sun they need for a crucial ‘royal flower’
It’s a nervous time for apple growers in the Riverina region of New South Wales, with the crucial ‘king’s flower’ period hit by a wave of cool, wet weather.
The sun has finally arrived in Batlow, but the low temperatures and more than 100 millimeters received in one week have reduced the activity of the bees necessary for the pollination of the flowers, which must occur for the fruits to be produced.
Barney Hyam grows Pink Lady apples and said they have 10 days to get good pollination during what is known as the important “royal flower” period.
The “royal flower” is the first flower of the season and its pollination helps to ensure the production of quality fruit.
âWe probably missed a lot of really opportune time to pollinate the royal bloom in the Pink Ladies, but we will have pollination now that the forecast looks much better,â Hyam said.
“I hope the bees can come out and get to work, and we can produce a decent crop in April, May of next year.”
Hives brought to help pollination
Almost two years after the black summer bushfires that devastated producers in the region, apple grower Ian Cathles said the wet weather had also increased the risk of the fungal disease, apple scab.
“You try, between the rains and so forth, to go out and protect your orchard.”
Mr. Cathles, who has received nearly 1,200 millimeters of rain for the year to date, brings 300 beehives to his orchards to try and pollinate as many flowers as possible.
âYou want to get as high a yield as you can to be a productive orchard because the prices aren’t right right now.
âIt’s a very difficult year for the producer; all the products are very cheap. There is great value for consumers.
The weather brings tough decisions
Ralph Wilson, of Wilgro Orchards, said the tough decision was when to thin apple trees using nitrogen fertilizer.
Trees should be thinned to reduce the risk of apple drop and meet pruning requirements.
“This is the most stressful time because if you cut too much fruit you will have a light harvest, but if you don’t cut enough it will impact next year’s harvest, and that means you will need to thin out by hand, âWilson said.
“The bees decide that because it’s wet and cold, ‘Let’s just sit in the hive for the day.'”
Apples grown in the Batlow area are packaged and marketed by Batlow Apples.
Batlow Apples Orchard Regional Manager Andrew Desprez said although production was affected in the wake of the bushfires, things quickly turned around.
âLast year’s production increased. We actually had twice as many apples as we had after the fires,â Desprez said.
“The (previous) reduction in yield was also due to drought, now it’s over. Which is part of the reason why production has resumed.”
Mr Desprez said many trees damaged by the fires had been replanted this winter and would be back in production in three years.