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Pinpointing accurate thinning the way of the future for apple producers

Pinpointing accurate thinning the way of the future for apple producers

Pinpointing accurate thinning the way of the future for apple producers

Over-thinning and under-thinning fruitlets are two recognised pain points for apple growers globally. Too much thinning and yield is lost. Too little and costly hand-thinning is required. The latter is a particular issue in New Zealand after recent COVID-related labour shortages.

Added to this is the complication that optimal chemical thinning varies significantly according to location, climate and varieties.

Ton Besseling, Adama’s Netherlands-based Global Brevis® Project Manager, says a common need expressed by growers everywhere is for not only an effective thinner, but a tool that recommends when to apply it and the required rate for best results.

Ton says feedback suggests that under-thinning is a far bigger issue for the industry than over-thinning. “Internationally, many growers are saying they still have to spend too much time on hand thinning.”

That is where BreviSmart comes in. The predictive web-based app helps growers determine the best timing to apply Adama’s innovative photosynthesis-inhibiting fruitlet thinner Brevis. This product is applied when fruitlets are about 8 to 14 mm in size and has the advantages of being easy to measure for tank mixing, not requiring surfactants or other additives, and being rain-fast within two to three hours.

BreviSmart, which was launched in New Zealand last season, adds significant value to Brevis by enhancing application accuracy. The programme factors in solar radiation, temperature, fruitlet size, and apple variety. Developed in conjunction with IBM, BreviSmart uses weather data and forecasts from The Weather Company, an IBM business. Data for the next five days (including the day of calculation) is sourced from the weather stations closest to the orchard. A report is then generated, using a traffic light system (yellow for reduced thinning conditions, green for good thinning conditions, red for strong thinning conditions). Reports are produced daily during the thinning season, allowing growers to easily see the best time to apply and plan accordingly.

Growers and advisors also factor in block history, vigour, cultural techniques, and variety.

Ton says ongoing data and trials continue to inform the BreviSmart algorithms. He cites fine-tuning for apple orchards in Italy. Planted on steep hillsides, individual properties can vary as much as 600 metres in elevation, creating microclimates even within one block. Inputting additional localised weather data solved their thinning issues.

“At the end of the day you want to improve the efficacy,” Ton explains. “You want to have the best day of application and the highest effect of the product. With BreviSmart, we’re able to predict the optimum moment to apply Brevis.”

More than 800 trials worldwide have contributed to the programme to date with additional apple varieties being added as they are released commercially and have more than 1,000 ha planted.

Ton says that science is becoming increasingly sophisticated in Europe, with the ability to factor in an orchard’s own weather stations, to provide forecasts. Ultimately, the goal is to provide information which allows growers to customise their orchards right down to achieving the required fruit size for their markets.

New Zealand orchardists and advisors using the technology last season reported that BreviSmart had been a useful tool complementing grower and advisor knowledge.

Damian MacKenzie, Adama New Zealand Commercial Manager, says the collection of data and trials won’t be stopping. “The more we learn and share, the better we can make our response to advisors’ and growers’ needs and the better and more profitable the fruit they take to market,” Damien says.

For more information about BreviSmart and Brevis, speak with your Fruitfed Supplies Technical Horticultural Representative.