Given that profit margins are tight and labour is in short supply, a “robot ready” orchard that yields almost twice as much Class I fruit and can be mechanically harvested would probably be a dream come true for the UK’s top fruit growers. Happily, crop production specialist Hutchinsons’ ground-breaking, ten-year project – named Hutchinsons’ Enhanced Light Interception Orchard System (Helios) – could help growers achieve this vision.
Last year, agronomy firm H L Hutchinson began its Enhanced Light Interception Orchard System (HELIOS), a 10-year project looking at how orchard design can be improved to capture more sunlight and so increase yield, while also factoring in establishment costs and likely technological developments such as robotic picking and mechanical pruning, building on work in New Zealand by Dr Stuart Tustin of the government-owned Plant & Food Research institute and putting it in a UK context.
Last month (July 2019), Hutchinson invited growers to visit the programme’s two orchards in Herefordshire and east Kent.
On the hottest day of the year so far, 25 July 2019, top fruit growers and industry professionals gathered at A C Hulme and Sons’ Hoaden Court in Ash, near Canterbury, to listen to specialist agronomists Rob Saunders and Nigel Kitney discuss the progress of Hutchinsons’ Enhanced Light Interception Orchard System (HELIOS) project.
As thunderstorms brewed in the distance, the group was taken around the extensively varied experimental planting systems, which, along with another mirrored trial site in Newent, Gloucestershire, form part of the crop production specialists’ ground-breaking 10-year project in top fruit.
Spring has sprung, although the number of frosts we've had in May does make me wonder. I'm not sure what effect it has had on the blossom on the fruit trees and berry bushes in the garden; only time will tell. The plum and codling moth traps are out so hopefully we’ll have a bit less fruit damage this year.
We've had a first hatch of cygnets and hopefully we'll have also got some young calves in the meadow over the river so, yes, spring has sprung in the Waveney Valley at least.
The recent rains, while very welcome, would have been better without the hail and
This May Chris Cooper and Rob Saunders, vine specialists in the Hutchinsons Horticultural Team, consider some positive news regarding plant protection products for 2019.
H.L. Hutchinson Ltd recently hosted two workshops on the use of the apple and pear thinning product Brevis, one in Ledbury, Herefordshire and the other at their Canterbury, Kent depot.
Rob Saunders, horticultural project manager at H.L.Hutchinson Ltd, by way of introducing the workshop, said: "You could argue that for apple growers thinning has now become the most difficult and the most important decision of the year. This is particularly true of varieties like Gala, bearing in mind the very specific size ranges now demanded by the multiple retailers."
From compostable punnets to shelf life-extending film, the fresh produce sector is witnessing an explosion of environmentally friendly packaging innovations.
Earthcycle punnets from CKF
Dealing with Grape Vine Trunk Disease
Chris Cooper and Rob Saunders, vine specialists in the Hutchinsons Horticultural Team, share their thoughts on vineyard priorities for February.
Rob Saunders is a member of the WineGB viticulture working group, an agronomist with Hutchinsons and a board member of AHDB Horticulture. SWD was less of a problem for UK vine growers in comparison with 2017, but Rob wanted to update vineyard managers on current findings, future implications and control strategies for this relative newcomer to the UK.