Top tips for new orchard plantings

Inspired Ag’s COO, Catriona Saunders says where trellising has traditionally been the domain of apples and cherries, more and more crops are being installed on structures as orchardists use uniformity to prepare for the future.

She said setting and rain cover installs are also increasing to help protect all sorts of crops against weather events, increase fruit quality and decrease water requirements.

Inspired Ag has a range of structure components for hail netting, rain cover and trellises. This includes high-quality made-to-order netting, steel posts, anchors, cables and more.

“We added steel into our range to aid orchardists to self-install,” Ms Saunders said. “Orchardists use an auger when installing steel posts, rather than an excavator which is often required to install timber posts.

“Given the flexibility and reduced costs of self-installation, we anticipate that more and more growers will use post-harvest to install structures themselves, building this skill-set amongst their team.”

Top tips when thinking about new plantings and structure installs

(Whether that be a greenfield site or retro-fitting over a current orchard):

1. Future proof your design by choosing 2D trellis. This will make the introduction of platforms, leaf removers, robotics and other agtech much easier due to the single plane

2. Engage a mapping expert to assist with the design phase. Mapping professionals can assist with tree spacing, structure design and navigating tricky layouts. They are well worth the upfront investment

3. When using netting, consider whether including retraction is important – particularly to aid pollination

4. When using rain cover, if the cover is fixed, the plastic needs to have a weave that won’t be ‘green housing’ for the trees. Most growers choose to use retractable rain cover to avoid the green housing effect

5. If you’re combining trellis and net/rain cover on the same post, make sure you reduce the size of your bays. Typically bays are around the 10-metre length

6. For a retro-fit structure, steel posts cut down on install time, complexity and risk of damage to trees. This is particularly so when retro-fitting over V-trellis where it is challenging to get an excavator to ram in timber posts while avoiding trees and trellis wires

7. If you haven’t already ordered components, you must do it now. There are shortages and delays across many product lines – and prices continue to rise. Even if you have time and labour to only install a part of your structure this winter, it’s worth doing the full order of components to hedge yourself against ongoing price rises

8. Like locking in your components, if you’re going to need an installer, they also must be locked in ASAP. Given installer availability, consider only using them for part of the install or complete the full installation with your own team

There are clearly huge benefits from installing netting and rain cover over crops; as well as using trellising. The key is to ensure careful planning and engagement early with suppliers. The Inspired Ag team is available to discuss netting and structure components, including ideas to make installs simpler.

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