Farms thick with thin­ners

Full trees call for ex­tra hands on cit­rus or­chards

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE | FENCE POST - Felicity Ripper Felicity.Ripper@cnbtimes.com.au

THANKS to well-timed rain and a fine sum­mer, the North Bur­nett’s cit­rus or­chards will be glow­ing gold by late March.

But it won’t hap­pen with­out a full force of cit­rus thin­ners as prime con­di­tions, es­pe­cially around Gayn­dah, have meant crops are heav­ily loaded.

Or­chards and job agen­cies across the re­gion have put calls out for ex­tra help with thin­ning, to get the job done in time for the fruit to size-up and de­velop cor­rectly by the time it is ripe.

“If you don’t take some of the fruit off, the en­ergy of the tree is be­ing di­vided up into too many pieces of fruit on the tree, and all the fruit will be small,” Red Rich Fruits Na­tional Farm­ing Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Tim Teague said.

“But you can see just by look­ing at trees, if we had of left all that fruit on there then the tree would break if they were to all grow to full size.”

Mr Teague, who man­ages or­chards at Mount Law­less, said they will be­gin to pick at the end of March and tim­ing is ev­ery­thing.

“In that eight or nine weeks we need the fruit on the tree to go to a com­mer­cial size,” he said.

“That de­fines our timeline so if we were to start

❝ If you don’t take some of the fruit off, the en­ergy of the tree is be­ing di­vided up into too many pieces of fruit on the tree, and all the fruit will be small.

— Tim Teague

thin­ning in early March we would be too late be­cause we could take half the fruit off and there’s still not enough time be­fore the fruit ma­tures, for it to size up.”

Dur­ing a reg­u­lar or light sea­son, only de­fected fruit would be re­moved from the trees but Mr Teague said or­chards are “even tak­ing off good fruit” this sea­son.

He said this means, when putting on new thin­ners, it can be a chal­lenge to train their eye to know what needs to be re­moved.

At the Mount Law­less or­chards, work­ers are di­vided into those who thin out the bot­tom of the tree and those who thin out the top.

“The guys on the cherry pick­ers do the tops of the tree, so their role is to take off the sun­burnt and de­fected fruit on the tops of the trees only. It’s pretty sim­ple,” Mr Teague said.

“Then we’ve got the guys on the bot­tom, work­ing on the ground, and they take off any­thing they can reach on the out­side that is burnt or de­fected.

“Af­ter that they have the sub­jec­tive call about heav­ier trees. Most of the time, for us, it’s not a case of judg­ing the trees in­di­vid­u­ally but rather a case of blocks.

“So we’ll see a whole block is heavy and say ‘right we want to take off 15 per cent of the fruit’.”

A num­ber of fac­tors have con­trib­uted to the trees be­ing par­tic­u­larly full this year.

“Where this year I would see 100 pieces of fruit on the ground, last year there was just 20, bug­ger all, and it was pri­mar­ily de­fected fruit,” Mr Teague said.

“This year we’ve had bet­ter rain at bet­ter times. And for the last six weeks, in prime grow­ing time, we’ve had no rain so we can con­trol the wa­ter that’s go­ing out on the trees.

“Most or­chardists would tell you that we’d love the rivers to be full and the or­chard to be dry be­cause then we can con­trol itany­thing we spray and any fer­tiliser we put on, we can con­trol.”

“A part of it is just a cy­cle though, you gen­er­ally get one heav­ier year and one lighter year.”

Or­chardist Emma Robin­son agreed that cit­rus can be cycli­cal, adding that a more fruit­ful sea­son isn’t al­ways a good thing.

An over­sup­ply of the fruit can send prices down, but grow­ers in the re­gion re­main pos­i­tive.

The Gayn­dah or­chard has un­der­gone in­ten­sive thin­ning af­ter an abun­dance of fruit came through over sum­mer.

Red Rich Fruits' Na­tional Farm­ing Op­er­a­tions man­ager Tim Teague said the trees are full at the Gayn­dah Or­chard.

A worker thins cit­rus trees at Gayn­dah.

TOP JOB: Mar­gar­ito Anino has been work­ing at Red Rich Fruits' Gayn­dah Or­chard thin­ning the tops of trees.PHO­TOS: FELICITY RIPPER

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