Ben Brown - Almond Board of Australia Dave Monks and Karl Sommer - Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria 2014 Crop Review
developed over two seasons and the reasons for the low 2014 crop are likely to exist not just in the 2013/14 season but also the 2012/13 season. The development of yield involves three important stages (Kester et al, 1996) and is discussed in the context of the two seasons.
The 2014 crop is currently estimated at 65000 tonnes, 17% lower than the initial opening season estimate (based on its plantings database and yield matrix) of 78,251 tonnes. This is the third of the last four crops that have been below expectations with total farm gate losses estimated to be in excess of $270 million (Table 1). What’s particularly disappointing with the 2014 crop was not just that it was down on estimates, but it was down 12% on the 2013 crop of 73361 tonnes with approximately 10488 ha still to reach full maturity (trees ≥ 8 years of age). There should have been an increase on the 2013 crop based on orchard maturity alone. The degree of crop reduction was widespread but variable, some growers experiencing only a small reduction, whilst others experienced a severe reduction in crop. An industry meeting was facilitated by the ABA in July to discuss the reasons behind the lower than expected 2014 crop. The meeting was well attended by 23 participants and the following key points were discussed and raised for consideration.
1. Establishing bearing potential The entire first season (in this case the 2012/13 season) establishes the bearing potential of the second season (2013/14). This stage consists of active spur and shoot growth, vegetative bud development and floral bud development. Establishing the bearing potential occurs by firstly having an adequately sized canopy to provide an upper bound; secondly by maintaining adequate return bloom from existing spurs; and thirdly by producing new floral positions from new spur and vegetative growth. The upper bound of bearing potential is best measured using light interception where research (Lampinen, 2013) indicates the maximum potential production from traditional almond orchards is approximately 56kg/ha per 1% light interception, or 5600kg/ha. In reality, 100% light interception is not achievable nor recommended. Research indicates light interception should not exceed 80% (equivalent to a maximum potential production of 4500kg/ha) to optimise drying of harvested fruit and reduce food safety risks. It appears not enough Australian orchards are near the recommended 80% light interception, either due to: immature canopies; trees missing following the wet 2010/11 season; excessive pruning, particularly of immature canopies; or the canopy size is too variable. On a whole of industry basis, the grower meeting indicated trees that died following the wet 2010/11 season may not have been communicated to the ABA, and consequently not removed from the ABA industry yield estimates. The ABA will contact growers to confirm the acreage provided in the annual survey. The likelihood of return bloom is important and positively associated with the preceding season’s leaf area per hectare (Lampinen et al,
Almond is a perennial horticultural tree crop in which yield is
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