Research and development activities for the South Australian stone fruit industries have been supported by four major research centres:
Blackwood Experimental Orchard
Blackwood Experimental Orchard was established in 1907 to serve horticultural industries located in the cooler climates of the Mt Lofty Ranges. While this cool production environment was not ideally suited to growing many stone fruit crops, Blackwood made numerous contributions to South Australia’s stone fruit industries.
A large collection of more than 4000 fruit varieties was established at Blackwood. In 1928, this collection contained many stone fruit varieties including apricot (114), cherry (213), nectarine (82), peach (373) and plum (368). Blackwood was a major supplier of budwood to commercial nurserymen (supplying more than 90,000 bud and scion sticks annually in the mid 1930’s), thus contributing to the establishment of many orchards across the state.
Other significant stone fruit related research work conducted at Blackwood Experimental Orchard included:
- Evaluation of tillage systems and green manure crops for better orchard floor management.
- Development of copper sprays for curl leaf in peaches.
- Post WW2 introduction of air blast sprayers from Canada, licensing their manufacture in Australia, and development of concentrate spraying systems.
- The labour saving introduction of bulk handling systems for fruit handling.
- Introduction and development of cool storage systems for fruit.
For further information about Blackwood Experimental Orchard.
Berri Experimental Orchard
Established in 1911, the Berri Experimental Orchard became operational and under the SA Department of Agriculture’s management in 1917. Located on the River Murray five kilometres north east of Berri, this was the main research facility serving horticulture industries in the Riverland until its close in 1968. Over more than 50 years, research staff ran a wide variety of trials relating to stone fruits, including:
- Rootstock assessments.
- Pruning trials to evaluate impact on yield and quality.
- Manurial (particularly zinc deficiency) and orchard/vineyard floor cultivation systems.
- Development of control techniques for a range of pests and diseases.
- Introduction of drainage techniques to address irrigation difficulties.
- Evaluation and introduction of sprinkler irrigation systems.
Berri Experimental Orchard was also used to assess a wide range of new crops (cotton, linseed, guayule, opium poppies, castor oil, flax, hemp, tobacco, sugar beet) and was a major centre for production of vegetable seeds during WW2.
With the post WW2 development of the Loxton Irrigation Area, set up of Loxton Research Centre commenced in 1948. Research activities at Berri Experimental Orchard were gradually transferred to Loxton Research Centre, and the Berri research facility was closed in 1968.
For further information about Berri Experimental Orchard.
Loxton Research Centre
Loxton Research Centre replaced Berri Experimental Orchard. It was established in 1960 on land set aside within the new Loxton Irrigation Area. The first experimental stone fruit plantings were made in 1962.
In addition to a wide range of irrigation and soil management research projects, following are key stone fruit programs that have been conducted at Loxton:
- Apricot manurial and irrigation trials to evaluate the effect of fertiliser and irrigation application timing on tree development and cropping.
- Peach rootstock trials to evaluate the effect of scion and rootstock variety interaction on ripening date.
- Screening new variety introductions of almond, apricot, peach, nectarine and plums.
- Fruit thinning and crop load management.
- Introduction and demonstration of the Tatura trellis for canning peaches and the MIA trellis for apricots.
- Evaluation of selections from the Apricot Breeding Program continues as one of the largest programs operating at Loxton Research Centre.
For further information about Loxton Research Centre.
Lenswood Horticulture Centre
Development of Lenswood Horticulture Centre commenced in 1963. It replaced Blackwood Experimental Orchard as the main research facility serving cool temperate horticulture industries.
The most significant stone fruit research and development work based at Lenswood Horticulture Centre relate to the cherry industry and included:
- Development of the “Lenswood System” of cherry orchard design using tree trellising, bird netting, dwarfing rootstocks, and fruitfulness management. This has been adopted by the cherry industry nationally, and has dramatically improved yields, fruit quality and profitability.
- Establishment of the national cherry breeding program (initially under the management of Dr Andrew Granger), utilising new DNA techniques for rapid screening of potential new varieties. This program produced the varieties Sir Don and Sir Tom.
For further information about Lenswood Horticulture Centre.
Other Research Facilities
South Australia’s stone fruit industries have been serviced by a wide range of specialist research and technical staff based in various locations.
The Northfield Research Laboratories was a major base for Department of Agriculture researchers between 1964 and 1993, including the Horticulture Post Harvest Research unit, Horticulture Pathology, Entomology and Plant Nutrition groups.
With closure of the Northfield Research Laboratories, these teams were transferred to the Plant Research Centre at the Waite precinct in 1993.
Staff based within the University of Adelaide’s Waite Agricultural Research have also provided significant support to the stone fruit industry (Institute since its establishment in 1924).