Joining our AlmondBeat Industry outlook, we're happy to introduce the current AppleBeat report, based on Millions of trees and fruits being monitored in the Pacific Northwest region.
2023 has been a challenging season, to say the least. Influenced by extreme weather conditions that included fewer than usual frost events and sudden high heat that wasn't built gradually (so trees can acclimate), apples started slow in terms of size.
With Phytech's IoT network deployed across tens of thousands of acres in PNW, the fruit size report can help growers understand how are they doing compared to the industry's performance and help them reach their target size - on time.
PNW Territory Manager, Soil & Water Agronomist, Iftach Shalev: "With so much variations on crop loads and weather conditions it’s challenging to keep fruit growth on track,
Phytech’s fruit sensors and modeling allows the growers to fine tune their fruit growth by using different irrigation strategies and getting immediate visibility and feedback".
Phytech's fruit tracking feature helps growers manage this goal. By setting a target size goal and harvest date, Phytech's app generates a fruit trajectory curve, that serves as a navigation tool, to which the grower can compare the real-time fruit size and growth in the block. Depending on the season's stage, if the fruit is falling below the curve (Undersize), the grower can increase irrigation which will lead the fruit back on track, Conversely, reducing irrigation can help an Oversized fruit to return to the trajectory
In the following screenshot, we've generated a report for Honey Crisp variety. On the left side the middle column shows the current average size compared to the previous year (left column) and the target size on the right. The diagram in the center shows the distribution of plots where apples are undesize, oversize or on target. As can be seen, 37% of the blocks are undersize, 36% are on target and 27% are oversize. This bird's eye view of the industry performance gives growers a clear benchmark of their apples' size and can guide their irrigation decisions.
Apple growers have to maintain a delicate balance, where on the one hand apples will reach their target size on time, and on the other hand preserve trees' health and ensure optimal fruit quality. "The biggest thing for growers is to capitalize fruit growth by managing irrigation during heatwaves"' says Customer Success Manager, Travis Klicker, "We're seeing good response from the trees and the fruits when growers are switching from a long duration-high quantity irrigation scheme to 2 short set - an early set and a late one".
In Honey Crisp for example, growers stress the trees to reduce size or need to use expensive chemicals. Knowing in real-time the fruit trajectory means Phytech's customers are not in a reactive mode but can navigate their fruit size according to the trajectory. Bitter pit, a physiological disorder due to calcium deficiency (which shows as dark spots on the fruit), might also develop when too much stress is applied, so growers need to follow closely their trees' plant status along the fruit size and adapt irrigation according to what trees - and fruits - are "telling" them. "When fruit growth is negative, the tree might "take back" water and nutrition from the fruit to preserve itself and that might also affect quality", adds Klicker
See this video on Phytech's fruit maps and working with the trajectory: