The new regulations which have been introduced this month will increase your labour costs and potentially affect your profitability so what are you planning to do about it?
Have you critically evaluated every crop, system and site that you grow and are you concentrating your efforts on those most likely to give both the greatest return and the best margin? Your staff should be more efficient if you do all that you can to make their work easier so focus on the following:
- Grow good quality fruit with no pest, disease or pollination defects that would slow down the harvest and reduce the return on your investment. AHDB has funded numerous projects on crop protection with this aim, the most recent and pertinent being Projects TF 180 – Timing and efficacy of insecticides for control of mussel scale on apple, TF 181 – Exploiting semiochemicals, conservation biocontrol and selective physical controls in integrated management of pear sucker, TF 194 – Biocontrol methods in pest and disease management in plum and cherry production, TF 204 – Improving codling moth spray timing, TF 216 – Evaluation of products for control of Nectria galligena on apples and SF 145 - Managing spotted wing drosophila in the UK.
- Present fruit well so that pickers can do their job quickly, easily and well. To help growers with this, AHDB is funding two projects on fruit wall production systems in apple including Projects TF 206 – Comparison of planting material for fruit wall orchard systems for apple and TF 207 – Determination of the optimum pruning time for fruit wall orchard systems for Gala apple.
- Ensure that you are employing the best ‘Champion Picker’ and labour saving practices highlighted in Project TF 171 - The production of increased labour efficiency models in horticulture – apple harvesting. This project demonstrated that the use of a ‘champion picker model’ to train new pickers, could save 20% on apple picking costs. It also demonstrated the increased savings that could be made in the harvesting operation by employing the bin train harvesting operation.
- Further labour cost savings can be made by using the AHDB training DVDs ‘Creating champion employees’ and ‘Harvesting quality apples and pears’ the latter being translated into eight additional languages.
- The die is cast for 2016 but in future seasons, you may need to invest in high yielding varieties with large fruit and good grade-out, along with rootstocks which provide improved benefits to reduce labour costs. To this end, AHDB continues to fund Project TF 224 – East Malling Rootstock Club, which aims to breed new rootstocks (for apple with a vigour between that of M26 and MM 106), which have good anchorage lending precocity and pest and disease resistance. All of these traits will have a beneficial effect on labour and harvesting costs.
- In addition we have also funded a series of plum and cherry variety trials over the years to identify those which present fruit well to pickers, are quick and easy to pick and have high yields of Class 1 fruit. Most recently in cherry, we have funded Project TF 176 – Cherries and Plums: Evaluation of new and promising scion varieties/selections and in plum, Project TF 170 – To determine performances of six new plum varieties.