Visiting Laurie & Jan Beier’s Pummelo Orchard

I moved here about 8 years ago and we have 4 ½ acres. I originally grew a few trees in Ash St Yamanto and then sold that property and moved here. I experimented there for about four years with grafted trees from various nurseries and I couldn’t get them to grow and a friend of mine had a tree that originally came from China 40 years ago and I tasted the fruit which was very good eating so I air-layered a branch and potted it on and it grew and all of my 300 trees that I have on this property came off that one tree. I believe that it’s a Shatinyu variety from China. Most Pummelos are tropical but this one is a temperate variety which is why it grows very well in Ipswich. It’s on its own rootstock – it’s not grafted. I don’t know anything about grafting trees. I just air-layer anytime of the month by putting a Jiffy Pot around them and you can do this at any time of the year. I believe I’m the only one who has this variety. The tree seems to grow all year round here and gets new leaves on all the time – it seems to grow best in autumn and the cooler months than the summer months. It’s a very good eating variety and I’ve tried all of them including the red variety. I have one red variety here and you can see it only has one piece of fruit on it – I’ve shifted it around a bit to see if it would do better in another spot but haven’t been successful. It’s probably a tropical type – Cardiff Red. Most of the Pummelos come from SE Asia and they’re called a Shaddock. Captain Shaddock apparently brought it to Barbados from Asia. Some of the trees seem to be alternate bearers. One year they do really well and the next year not as well.

Planting Out / Soil   I know a bit more now than when I started out. What I should have done was get a grader in to create hills and run polypipe along the crest of the hill. The best way is to take an area 3 mtrs x 3 mtrs and hill it up 40 cms so you have a mound so you have good drainage because they don’t like wet feet. The trees grow better in a lighter soil so if your soil is like plasticine or heavy then it will kill the tree eventually. The trees are surface rooted so the water must get away.

Sheryl Have you had a ph test done or leaf analysis? Laurie Grow Force did the soil test but I’ve never had leaf analysis done. I have asked the DPI to come out a couple of times but they never have and I even offered to pay. Some of the trees I have here I’m still not happy with – they grow all right but still have collar rot and root rot. George If it’s not an economic crop and it’s not grower funded, then the DPI don’t get involved.

Fertiliser   I use a Citrus fertiliser and also grass clippings, Dynamic Lifter, horse manure, blood and bone, Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom salts)and  Sulphate of Ammonia (only on bearing trees). I find most of them do better just with grass clippings would you believe and I just let it rot. I put 2 kgs of Dynamic Lifter around each mature tree in the spring and more about 3 months before they fruit. Blood and bone I use anytime. I dissolve a tablespoon of magnesium sulphate in a bucket of water and put this on in during autumn. 

Merv If there’s a magnesium deficiency indicated by a yellowing effect on the leaves, they say the best way of correcting it is to put a teaspoon of Epsom Salts in a bucket of water and throw it over the tree.  It actually absorbs quicker through the leaves.

George The only problem in using things in isolation like that is that you can be sure it will, you can almost guarantee it has an effect on other elements from what I’ve seen. It’s actually locking other elements. Apparently some things are antagonistic and some are pro-active which is why organics work because it’s generally in the right mix to start with.

Merv If you throw this solution over the citrus tree, it’s not going to turn your yellow leaves green, the new shoots will be green. That was always a prime recommendation to people who rang into a horticultural hotline with the magnesium deficiency problem.

Laurie Dolomite is important and this helps release other fertilisers. 

Sheryl Have you done a test to see that it is the grass clippings? Laurie   Yes, I just put grass clippings on one and it’s fruit was equal if not better to others.

George   Do you use Trace Elements?    Laurie   Yes.

Pests       Biggest problem is with scale so I use White Oil and Rogor or Lorsban very early in the morning when there’s no wind. I don’t get much gall wasp which you should burn.

Willie I just use vegetable oil and brush it on to my trees.

Laurie This year after I pick the fruit I’m going to try some 5kg Hydrated Lime and mix it up with water and ½ kg copper sulphate and paint some of the trunks of the trees.  They say if you get some vegetable oil with water and detergent so that when the water evaporates from the detergent, the oil sticks to the scale and dehydrates the scale. The proper white oil for citrus is around $60.00 for a 20 litre drum.

Merv I read that Pest Oil wasn’t doing the job it’s suppose to do. Some trees don’t get any problems at all so I only do selective spraying with white oil.

George I use a backpack with a leaf-blower which is extremely effective. Take the spray nozzle off the sprayer – just use a 5 ltr. sprayer. Mix it up then turn your blower on, then the tap and you don’t get anything on you, it’s an extremely fine mist so you can do a tree in 40 secs. and the coverage is brilliant. It just atomises and it’ll go 15mtr. high. Use a wire around the handle so it won’t roll. 

Laurie   I put up Dakpots and make up my own and hang them in the trees which attract all the male fruit flies and leaves the females sterile so when they lay their eggs they don’t hatch out. I use a protein bait - Fruitfly Lure Yeast Autolysate – salt free attractant for the control of the female fruit fly which is put out by Bugs for Bugs from Mundubbera. The fruit goes soft and rotten on the outside and drops off.

Sheryl   You don’t think it’s the Fruit Piercing Moth?

George  You’ve definitely got the Fruit Piecing Moth – you can’t stop them. They’ve got massive muscles, they can fly 3000 miles, it can go through rain it can travel up to 70kms a night – it’s the toughest moth ever produced!! Only thing that works is netting. Sprays don’t work. There’s also a fruit sucking moth that doesn’t do any real harm – it only goes to damaged fruit.

Merv With the Protein Bait you’re using, you don’t have to put a cover spray on it – you only have to spot it onto a few leaves of each tree. The protein bait helps control female populations.  Also the use of the male fruit fly attractant is a good way to assess the level of fruit fly problem. If I only catch a low level of male fruit flies, then I don’t bother with the Protein Bait. George You can do a mass cover quite cheap. Chop the wicks into little pieces and hang them in soft drink bottles, cut the top off the bottle, you don’t need to count the fruit fly – you want maximum access - cut a wick into 6 so buy 4 or 5 wicks. They last a few months. A mosquito netting works well too – we put one over a guava which worked very well.

Pruning   After fruiting I prune very heavily – it doesn’t seem to hurt them. 

Sheryl      Do you take out any main branches and how exactly do you prune? 

Laurie    I did take some main branches out but found that I got big long water shoots which I don’t want. With pruning, you want to keep it off the ground so that snails can’t climb onto the branches.

George   Have you tried a copper spray? Jenny Iriondo says that copper stops a lot of things including snails.  

Laurie   No I haven’t tried copper.

Irrigation   There’s a sprinkler on every tree and I water twice a week.

Orchard is situated at: 50 Andrew St. Bundamba 4304 but now has new owners.

Fruit available 1st week in June     Seedling Shatinyu Pummelos only  

Article compiled by Sheryl Backhouse

Authored by: 
Laurie Beier
Sourced from: 
STFC newsletter Feb-Mar 2004
Date sourced: 
2004