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Good as green for top crop

Good as green for top crop

A Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchard has posted a top orchard gate return based on its production of Hayward green in the 2013 season.

Last season it produced an average of 15,109 trays per hectare with size 33 fruit, with an orchard gate return (OGR) in excess of $90,000 compared to the industry average of $43,000. It was the highest OGR recorded for 2013 by the orchard’s management company, Direct Management Services (DMS).

The orchard is owned by the Owen St George Family Trust and managed by Matt Greenbank of DMS. Owen’s daughter, Jackie, also works on the orchard.

Owen says last season was a case of ‘everything lining up perfectly’ in order to have such a great crop.

“Everything has to line up for that one-in-a-million crop and last year everything really fell into place, despite the drought. It’s a fantastic result for green, almost unheard of. To get more than 15,000 trays was a real thrill.

“But it wasn’t easy. It was emotionally draining last season dealing with the dry weather and Psa, you never knew how much worse it was going to get. So to come out with a record crop was a real buzz. It’s proven to be a great orchard, even in the dry.”

Owen believes gaining a result like last season all comes down to teamwork and trust, made all the more important by the fact he lives out of town in Ohope.

“Working with a great team and having good relationships with them is important. You’ve got to trust your manager and your labour contractor and I’m fortunate to have great relationships with both.”

Owen purchased the orchard around 10 years ago, after 34 years of farming in the King Country, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay. Before last season’s bumper crop, the orchard was consistently producing around 11,000 to 12,000 trays per hectare.

“It’s been a reasonably good orchard the past few years, but we felt we could still be doing things better. The biggest change was grafting new chieftain males around five or six years ago, which are now at full production and have really made an impact. We have more males than a conventional orchard, with every second row being male.”

Matt Greenbank, who began managing the orchard around four years ago and has been part of the rebuild phase, says laying down good foundations is critical to a good crop.

“You need to get the basics right. If you do the two biggest things well – your winter pruning and spring pollination – that sets up the basis for a good crop and you can work on the rest from there. Timing and quality control are crucial.”

He says the solid relationship between himself and the St Georges is a huge advantage when managing the orchard and contributes to its overall success.

“It’s great to have a grower that trusts you and what you do.”

The St George orchard consists of 2.7 hectares of green and 1.3 hectares of newly converted Gold 3 (G3). Last year Owen and Jackie removed all the previous 16A gold variety due to Psa and burnt it.

The whole process has been a learning experience, with Owen and Jackie taking on the conversion workload.

“It’s been a huge undertaking and we’ve made a few little mistakes, but we’ve learnt from them. The whole industry’s still learning about G3,” says Owen.

He has a license for one more hectare of G3, but for now has decided not to cut out and convert his productive green vines.

“The returns on green are still an exciting prospect; growers are still making profit.”


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