We prioritize what we want our money spent on within the Association because we have limited funds. Phil and I have been here 26 years. The research and development is run by Roger Broadley from the Maroochy Research Station and Alan George does the breeding work and the tree manipulation work with Bob Nissen, Don Hutton, the late Dan Smith, and Geoff Waite. Alan George started work on trellising years ago but and dismissed it because the trees were too vigorous but he’s come up with a lot of new varieties of Custard Apples with which we have trial blocks all the way down the east coast and there are two trial blocks in NSW - we’re the one closest to the coast and there’s another inland. We decided to trial his new varieties on the trellis with dwarfing interstocks and it hasn’t worked very well as it was a straight up and down trellis but we have another variety from someone else that is a self pollinating Pink’s Mammoth called KJ Pink so we feel it’s going to be conducive to trellising. The Victorians developed an open Tatura trellising that they put stone fruit on, so along with Phil and Alan George, they have put in an open Tatura trial at the Research Station and we have also put one in here and we think it’s going to work. We also decided to put one lot under netting and leave one lot outside. On our web page we have a member’s section but just recently we’ve put every article from every newsletter since the newsletter was started 12 years ago so now we have a search engine, you can search by author etc. The Taiwanese grow a lot of Custard Apples.
Sheryl What sort of pests are you having problems with?
Patti Everything. Fruit Fly, Fruit Spotting Bug, Yellow Peach Moth, Avocado Leaf Roller, Possums, Birds, Rats….We had a conference in Ballina last year and Phil presented a paper on “To Net or not to Net” and we estimate we lose 30% of our crop in a bad year and people don’t realize this. Although we don’t have much fruit fly here, we bait spray 6 weeks before picking every 7 days with Maldison and Auto-Lysate and this is so we can send them interstate.
Varieties The flavour of KJ is the same as a Pink’s Mammoth. Because KJ sets a lot of fruit, they are much smaller than the normal Pinks Mammoth so we’re going to have to grow it totally differently to how we grow anything else. We’re going to have to prune a lot heavier, and a thinning regime. We probably pruned half of the fruit off and we still got small fruit so we’ll have to thin much more. They also set a lot mis-shapen fruit as well so a lot of the trial work will be on how much fruit to leave per butt size of the tree like we do with stone fruit. You leave so many fruit per cm of butt of the tree. It’s not viable for us to produce small fruit as it takes twice as long to pick, twice as long to pack and half the money. We originally had 600 African Pride but we’re slowly replacing them with KJ. According to Keith Paxton where KJ Pink came from originally, you have to prune heavily and fertilize heavily. Trialing, we have Maroochy Gold, Maroochy Jewell, Maroochy Yellow,T6, Palethorpe don’t set fruit. I like Maroochy Gold – it has soft flesh but not as sweet as Pinks Mammoth. It’s too vigorous to grow on a trellis. The DPI have released all the Maroochy varieties but they’re under PBR. Maroochy Smoothie is not being released because it has internal quality problems.
Sheryl How much water do you put on your trees?
Patti We have undertree irrigation and moisture meters and we try to keep the moisture between 25 and 10 and when it reaches 25-30, Phil irrigates. We use Intell Sprinklers.
Sheryl Are more people coming into the Association?
Patti On the Sunshine Coast there are a lot of small growers but they’re tending to go out of it as the land is being subdivided or they’re getting too old and their family don’t want to take over but the growers who are staying in are putting more trees in. We also grow Peaches and Nectarines and we made more money out of those than the Custards. We want to identify a good backyard tree and commercialize it as a backyard tree so it has to be reasonably dwarfing.
Trellising The upright poles are 6mtrs apart and the trees are 3 metres apart but I wouldn’t do this again but in a backyard situation, it would be feasible. The original Tatura came up and went to a Y fork and you put a tree in and one the other but this one is open so you can walk down the middle so you can prune both sides whereas with the old style Tatura, it was too difficult to prune. This is 30º to the vertical; the stonefruit people put theirs in 15º to the vertical but we’ve actually opened it even more to try and get them to flatten out so we’re hoping to get less vigour. Only use the heavy wooden posts as steel doesn’t work. The fellow who designed the open Tatura in Victoria is Bass van den Eden and when he came up for the Stonefruit Conference and saw ours, he declared it a world first the fact that we had incorporated the structure in the support system. The netting came from Netpro in Toowoomba.
Rootstocks We use Cherimoya rootstock with a dwarfing Cherimoya inter-stock and then the Maroochy Gold on top but Roger is really disappointed they are so vigorous because he really thought the inter-stock would slow them down.
After cooking your curry, add some chunky segments of Custard Apple.
Add some segments to some blue vein cheese.
Patti is the Secretary of the Australian Custard Apple Growers Association.
“Custard Apple News” is the newsletter of the Custard Apple Growers Association and comes out quarterly $66 per year. www.custardapple.com.au
Article compiled by Sheryl Backhouse