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What happens in orchards during summer time?

Published on December 10, 2020

“Summertime, and the livin’s easy…”

Summer in New Zealand has finally started!

Is that time of the year when surfing, beaches, ice creams, picnics, and outdoor sports are a must-do in Aotearoa. Summer temperatures will ranges from 20ºC to 25°C, the sun will shine for longer hours and rain is less likely to happen in most regions throughout the country. Summer season in New Zealand goes from 1st of December until the end of February, bringing a well-deserved warm climate after months of cold and heavy rain.

There is no doubt summer is the time of the year we all enjoy most, but nature also takes advantage of this warmer season.

bee pollinating flower

Pollination and Plant protection

During this time of the year, bees are the ones who work harder and enjoy the most. After the spring, when the flowers have flourished, it’s now time for bees to give a final sprint and finish pollinating all flowers that are still to be pollinated and of course collect their precious nectar.

Many other insects have their activities intensified. Some offers great help for the horticulture in general, but some can also put in danger all the work done during the spring. Since most insects only ‘attack’ during the day, the longer days in summer also help these small insects to do more damage than in other seasons.

The higher temperatures allied with moisture, originated from to summer showers and irrigation will also create a favorable condition for all kinds of pests and fungus to develop in orchards.

In the early days/weeks of summer, orchardists will be focusing most of their efforts in protecting their orchards, guaranteeing these pests do not get out of control. Although most growers in New Zealand try their best to use less pesticides as possible, and solely rely on pest control techniques, sometimes, chemical agents are necessary to keep these pests away from putting the whole production at risk.

There is a lot of discussion about whether orchards should use pesticides and other biological agents to help dealing with pests, and we are not going to go deeper in this topic in this article. But it’s important to point out that in New Zealand, we have over 8,000 hectares dedicated only for apple production. If we look into the kiwifruit production, we are talking about over 11,000 hectares. As we covered in a previous article, New Zealand has set another record in horticulture export in 2019, this means at the same time our production is growing, being able to control pests, bacterias and fungus is getting harder.

The horticulture industry is one of the largest in New Zealand, it’s a fact that the production of fruits and vegetables have a great impact in the country economics. Having orchards lose all of their production due to pests that could be avoided by using pesticides or chemicals is simply something growers, and New Zealand economy, could not afford – Of course, we are considering the use of proven safe-to-humans chemicals.

In 2011-2012, for example, the kiwifruit in New Zealand was hit by a ‘new’ bacteria called PSA-V (Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae). At the time the bacteria arrived, the industry was not prepared to deal with it, resulting in a drop of about 10% in the total exports of the fruit in the following year. A year later, after learning how to deal with it, and thanks to chemical and biological agents, we were able to monitor and control the disease. Today, although we still have PSA around, most orchards have systems in place to deal with the problem and avoid putting the entire orchard at risk.

Blooming and Harvesting

This is the season where all the magic happens, and flowers turn into fruits for a huge variety of produces. Some trees like apple, pear and kiwifruit will start its transformation from flower to fruit during this period. While the likes of Avocados, berries, cherries and other stone fruits should be ready for picking by this time of the year.

Work in orchards during summer time

Working in an orchard in summer is a great opportunity to see the different fruits at their different stages. Not all fruit trees start producing fruit at the same time. Some will start earlier and some will be a bit later in the season as they all have different period of growth. Some of the fruit crops will be in the initial stage of fruit growth and some others will be ready to harvest.

For fruits which are not yet fully grown, in general, for the first weeks of the summer there’s not much to be done in terms of orchard work. As flowers are blooming and being pollinated by bees, orchard work is more about ensuring everything is running smoothly as it should – which means a lower demand for workers.

However, a few workers are still necessary to tide-up vines, do some small pruning services, removing dead or diseased branches, and do flower bud thinning. Pruning during this time of the year should be carefully done, to avoid damaging existing flower buds, and help maintain the tree growth, maximize flower production and ultimately the fruit quality.

For fruits which are already fully grown or ripen, now it’s the busiest time of the year. It’s picking time!

Summer time is one of the best times of the year to join the horticulture industry, birds will be chirping, orchards will be looking beautiful with either heaps of fruits ready to be picked or a fascinating amount of flowers hanging on their branches, making it a perfect scenario for amazing photos during your lunch breaks, and a warm wind blowing.

If you are looking for jobs in the horticulture industry in New Zealand or are already working, all we have to say is ENJOY!

And use sunscreen at all times, as this summer is meant to be hotter than previous years.

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