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A new research and development program launched by Hort Innovation aims to arm growers with the tools they need to produce more fruit and nuts per hectare.

The five-year $28 million National Tree Crop Intensification in Horticulture Program (AS18000) will develop the systems needed to increase the intensity of orchards while improving production, quality and profitability outcomes for growers. Initially, the program’s focus is on almonds, avocados, citrus, macadamias and mangos.

“The program will investigate scion rootstock combinations, orchard design, vigour and canopy management strategies for optimal light interception. Orchard automation is also a key industry goal and the program will provide insights from a tree physiology perspective to facilitate this transformation,” Hort Innovation Research and Development Manager Dr Adrian Hunt said.

The improved and intensive cropping systems will contribute to the strategic priorities of industries included in the program. The projects include on-farm demonstrations that will provide critical insight in the adoption and extension of intensive cropping. Each of the five crops also have crop advisory groups to provide ongoing insight and feedback from growers and researchers.

For example, the citrus research program will address tree canopies modified using dwarfing viroids, dwarfing rootstocks, planting densities, pruning and cultural practices, and plant growth regulators, to understand their effect on the relationships between fruit density, canopy volume and saleable fruit.  The work will also include surveys of a wide range of citrus varieties in an attempt to better understand the physical traits that promote fruit density and, in turn, suitability to production intensification.

The National Tree Crop Intensification in Horticulture Program involves an international collaboration of leading research providers from Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Spain. It is being led by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and Plant and Food Research in Australia and New Zealand. Collaborators include the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and Food Innovation, and the University of California Davis.

It is closely linked to the National Tree Genomics Program also underway in the Hort Innovation Advanced Production Systems Fund. By working together, the programs are collectively gaining new knowledge in areas of shared interest and increasing the efficiency of delivery outcomes.

Find out more about the program and crop-specific activities here.