She’ll be apples

TASMANIA’S apple-picking season is getting underway and growers across the state are hoping for a smooth harvest season.

Brett Squibb from Squibb’s Orchard at Spreyton said after a wet spring, things had improved significantly.

“It did get fairly wet here for a while which caused us a few headaches,” he said.

“We bogged a few machines and getting in to spray when we needed to was a bit challenging but luckily it dried up once we got into December.”

Mr Squibb said one benefit of the extra rainfall was that the orchard now had surplus irrigation water that could be used to boost the trees through fertigation in preparation for next season.

Picking season at the orchard has now started and Mr Squibb said after a few challenging years trying to source enough pickers, this year was a welcome relief.

“We’ve actually got quite a good mix this year,” Mr Squibb said.

“We’ve got some locals, a few from Papua New Guinea and a few backpackers as well so that’s been a nice change.”

At peak harvest the orchard will have about 40 pickers and Mr Squibb said there would be about 200 working across the valley at local orchards.

Mr Squibb said the crop was looking slightly above average in terms of yield and the quality so far was excellent.

“That 70mm of rain we had last week was phenomenal for us,:” he said.

“It was ideal for a lot of crops really, not just apples. You can irrigate all you like, but there’s nothing like a really good rain, especially at this point in the season.”

Mr Squibb said fruit size was also looking good.

“The fruit has really sized up well since that rain,” he said.

“When you start getting a couple of extra millimetres size a week on apples at this stage it makes quite a difference. The fruit is really starting to colour up well now.”

Harvest is now in full swing and will continue through until the end of May.

“Everything is lining up really well so hopefully that continues,” Mr Squibb said. However, when it comes to market conditions he said it was hard to tell what prices would be like this season.

“I normally worry about getting them all off and into cool storage before we try to start selling any,” he said.

“Early indications are at this stage from what’s happened in some of the mainland areas with the rain and floods, there might not be huge amounts of fruit around.

“We’ll know more once we’re out there starting to sell,” he said.