FARMVIEW Season 2 Episode 3.1
Episode 3.1 - Working with sunscreen
Fruit Growers Victoria
Back in the old days growers used to protect against hail, sun and wind by trying to select sites that were less prone to hailstorms or less windy. The only way they could really work on sun is if they tried to grow the tree in such a manner that they created some shade. That worked to some extent, but it does not eliminate sunburn.
The implications to the industry are if a fruit get sunburned, it is lost. We lose all commercial value, so if I have 10% sunburn on 400,000 apples, I have just lost 40,000 apples.
On an average year to sunburn be probably would lose 15% and the idea is to try and get that back to probably 5%, which obviously gives us a 10-15% more near our top line.
We have started this year doing a trial with 3 different products. We picked out 5 growers in each trial, sprayed them with the different products, exactly the same time, with the same techniques, we picked 10 bins of each product and that goes into the cool store and it will be graded off, done by an independent person who will work out exactly what percentages are up to standard.
Previously before these trials we were just probably like everyone else trying to put more vigour on the trees to help cover the fruit, minimising our water stress by monitoring a lot more closely, applying it at night time instead of day times. I guess the final straw in making the decision to go for sunscreens was, I think, back in 2006 we actually got really badly hit. Probably 25% sunburn, we have looked at the losses and decided that there is somewhere along the line we had to come up with some other way of protecting our crops.
Costs can be $1,000 per hectare, which is nothing to be laughed at, it is a lot of money thus we went for the trial to try and ascertain which is the best product we can use and the best value. With the technique to put it on we have modified an existing sprayer to actually cover down from the top.
We went upstairs so it actually sprays down inside the trellis and also sprays up inside. That is giving us a much better coverage than just existing machine from the normal sprayer.
Ways of using the tail sprayer is that you are getting the spray coming down from where the sun would come, coming down on top of the fruit, whereas with the conventional sprayer you are spraying up, only getting the bottom of the fruit.
We have done conventional spraying with sunscreens for the last probably 3 or 4 years now. We find a little advantage since we have gone to the tail sprayer, we are probably saving 80% of our sunburn. That is a big saving any farmer can do it. It might cost $3,000 - $4,000 to set up a sprayer. From then on you will be reaping the rewards. Basically with the products we are using we are trying to achieve a lovely finish like that on our fruit. What happens with the sunburn, this will probably be in the second slide, at a lesser price. This would be in the juice line and this would be a total loss, what we usually left to go to the cows or something. That is the difference, it costs the same money to grow that, as all that. The expectations are realistic, we also believe that there is other ways and means of covering the crop, but cost effect was, we believe that the sunscreens are probably the way for us to go.
Having made the decision to use the protection, the reason for that was to try and get a lot better product at the end without wasting that 15% that goes to juice every year. So the idea is to basically try and improve our bottom line. I would certainly recommend with the other growers that is a technique that is well worth having a look at.
If you want to know more about this programme, contact your industry grower association or the DEPI customer service line - 136 186.