Third apple and pear productivity program launched

By Country News

Hort Innovation has kicked off the third Apple and Pear Industry Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils (PIPS3) program.

The program covers apple and pear orchards across the country and focuses on new technology and advanced management systems and applying integrated biological management to pests, diseases and soil.

Hort Innovation research and development manager Adrian Hunt said the program was in the initial stages of establishing research activities.

“It will deliver new research and build on the success of previous PIPS programs and benefit apple and pear growers,” he said.

“PIPS3 will execute an integrated program of activities across the whole orchard system.

“Apples and pears have come a long way since the first PIPS program; it’s exciting to see the new program get started and build more knowledge for growers.”

Four sub-projects of the program will work collaboratively and conduct trials with integrated activities and standardised methods on commercial orchards across key growing regions and at Agriculture Victoria’s Tatura SmartFarm.

Two of the sub-projects, managed by Agriculture Victoria, focus on new technology and advanced management systems that maximise fruit quality, yield and labour efficiency.

These projects are prepping industry for scalable mechanisation and automation.

They aim to improve orchard management by using sensing systems to monitor fruit development and explore opportunities for robotic harvesting.

They will also focus on training methods, planting densities, rootstock, sun protection and irrigation strategies to adapt to changes in climate.

The final two sub-projects managed by Agriculture Victoria and the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture work across apples and pears to measure outcomes of applying a range of integrated management solutions in orchards and focus on soil health and pest and disease management.

The projects seek to provide a step-change to operating more sustainable production systems that proactively integrate management of pests and disease and soil.

The whole-of-system approach will help research teams collaborate on needs identified by the apple and pear industry such as managing orchards in variable climates, meeting customer expectations, using resource inputs more efficiently and fostering greater sustainability through biological solutions.

Apple and Pear Australia chief executive officer Phil Turnbull welcomed the announcement of the PIPS3 investment in projects across the apple and pear supply chain.

“Quality research and development helps our industry to keep moving forward and ensures local and overseas consumers continue to trust, enjoy and afford fresh Australian apples and pears,” he said.

“The PIPS3 projects are well-aligned to the challenges for our industry and come at a time when consumer trust and expectations, labour challenges and climate adaptation are well and truly on the radar.”