Visiting John Gough – Persimmon Grower

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The name of the property is Pamplemoose Park and it’s situated at Wollongbar. Sheryl  Where does the property name originate? John It’s German for Grapefruit in French but it’s just a coincidence that my father heard the name but historically it was the name of the first Tropical Botanical Gardens in the world at Madagascar around 1600. The French tried to break the Dutch hold over the spice trade. Sheryl  Your father is well read.

John  We started off here growing Stonefruit but then we branched into Persimmons in 1998 and our main cultivar is Fuyu which is the Japanese non-astringent variety and this plot has just under 1000 trees and 1 in 10 is a pollinator named Gaily which is very vigorous and has an upright growth and is an Astringent variety. Every third tree at every third row so basically every tree is surrounded by 9 other tree so every tree has proximity to a pollinator.  They need pollination to set an even crop – the Fuyu in particular needs to be pollinated. Certainly in a bad year the trees that aren’t pollinated will drop worse and cause you more trouble. You’ll get a more even yield and they’re not a seedy fruit anyway. You’ll only wind up with 2-3 seeds in them anyway and we also have 5 rows of Jiro which is a lead in dwarfing variety and comes in 2 weeks earlier but it’s not the main export variety.

Sheryl Why do you think Fuyu are more popular than other varieties?

John It’s the main variety in Asia and it’s what they expect. In Japan there are over 80 different varieties. The Fuyu have slightly better lasting qualities and thicker skin. The Italian community like the astringent Nightingale variety but the export agents ask for Fuyu.

Pests  Fruit Spotting Bug – I monitor for it but it’s not much of a problem and I do spray. I put out baits for Fruit Fly and bait stations for rats. We use Racumin powder because it’s a multifeed type so it won’t knock around your predatory birds and it’s the only one that’s registered in the Macadamia Industry.

Sheryl  That wouldn’t be a problem here because your Persimmons are netted.

John It’s more a problem that if a bird sees a half dead rat around then it can knock off your owls eagles etc. We use a mix of 20kg sunflower seed with 1kg Racumin powder. 

Sheryl How do you put it out? John We have old offcuts of 50 – 100mm PVC about 300-400mm long and put a scoop in each of the bait stations.

Sheryl If you have them on the ground, doesn’t the rain interfere?

John No, it doesn’t seem to get into it too badly. In the Macadamias, we have more of a problem. We’re using unpunched draincorp and pulling it into a look about a metre long then we just give it a shake to see if they’ve knocked off the bait. You’ll see usually if they’ve been at them because there’ll be husks.

Fruit Fly We use the Bugs for Bugs trap. The wick is recommended to last for around 3 months. For this one hectare, we use one in each corner and one in the centre so you can tell if there is a particular area that the flies come to. We’ve had very low counts here even though we’re right on the bush. 5 flies per trap per day is when you start looking at Lebaycid spraying. When the fruit gets to the susceptible stage, I’ll start with the Yeast Autolysact and Maldison mixture.

Netting   We just have bird netting Sheryl What about hail? John We’ll cross our fingers on that one! We do have the Stonefruit netted. It was expensive to do the structure properly and this area is not like Stanthorpe and to do it properly I’ve seen a lot of places where the net hasn’t been set up properly and they got a lot of damage to the structure and still got damage to the fruit – the main risks we saw ourselves facing were birds and bats particularly lorikeets, parrots and crows. The Noisy Minors, seem to know how to get in and they tend to go back to the same bit of fruit, and the Crows and most of the other birds will do the same but the Lorikeets, they seem to go for the fruit when it’s not overripe but with the Stonefruit, they’ll just have a pick on everything because its bright coloured but not oversweet. The Bats will scramble around in a Stonefruit tree and wreck half a dozen bits of fruit trying to find a piece of really sweet fruit because it hasn’t built up really high sugar levels but I don’t mind the Noisy Minors getting in now because they’re very territorial and they’ll chase off the Lorikeets. Sheryl What about wallabies running into your net from the outside? John No, we haven’t many around here. Down at Halfway Creek they’ve had big problems and Ross Stumke at Gatton has had problems. Fruit Fly Lure – Autolysate by Bugs for Bugs at Munduberah Ph: 4165 4663.  You can  also add either wettable powder Lorsban, Hy-Mal (Maldison) to it. 10 litres water to 200ml of fruit fly lure. I use 10% of that mixture in a backpack.  The Maldison will actually burn the fruit. The idea is that when the female fly comes in they need a protein feed before they lay their eggs and they’ll go for the yeast  auto lysate  for the protein and be poisoned  I use one backpack for pesticides and one for the bait spray and I’ll do a very course spray on the leaves so from Dec/Jan onwards. On a hectare I’ll only use 20 litres compared to when you’re tree spraying when you’ll use 1000 litres so you’re using a tiny amount of chemical. One year when I did the spraying off the tractor with a handgun, I actually got more damage from the Maldison burn than from the fruit fly stinging.  I tend to use only 2-3 bait sprays per season. I get my produce packed by the House of No Steps for the Melbourne market as it needs to be dipped in Rogor Dimethoate 10ml:10litres so it’s stronger than if you’re spraying it in the paddock 75ml in 100 litres. You have to get the dip tested with the Rogor and the extra cost of the protocol is somewhere between $200-$400 if you have to get more than one test done. We tend to send most of our Stonefruit to Melbourne.

Trellising   Persimmons are a very heavy cropper but they’ve also got a lot of willowy growth. You want fast early production so you can maximum your tree growth because you don’t have to prune them very hard.  Growing them free standing without the trellising, the trees tend to overload and the branches will hang down on the ground and limbs break and as well as that your fruit gets rubbed so it downgrades a very large percentage of fruit. Pruning tends to be not so hard in the early years and you spend more time training them with a central leader and a palmette coming off every 400mm. We let them grow to 4 metres and harvest them with a platform. We started off this trellising with 2.4 coppers logs and used passionfruit poles in-between and 50mm end poles with 4 runners and I run the irrigation off the ground on the bottom runner so it’s off the ground. One of the problems we’ve got is that the poles have pulled in a little. We’ve got too much tension on the end poles and with the red clay soils around here, when they get saturated, the poles tend to loosen up – we get a wetting and drying effect, the houses get a lot of trouble not so much with the cracking of the clay which they get down on the flats but when the soil gets saturated, what we found was it tended to pull the poles over so don’t make your struts too short. Sheryl  Did you copy this system? John We used a similar system to grapes. NZ has a few different types of trellising but the vertical palmette suits us because we grew Stonefruit like that for a number of years. Fuyu are planted 3 metres apart and Jiro are 2½ metres apart because they’re more of a dwarfing tree and there are 4 metres between rows.

Sheryl  Would you choose a different type of trellising next time? John Yes, the logs we used were 2.4 and after sinking them in 700mm, there’s about 1.7mtr out of the ground but we could do with another wire so we changed the system for the new block so 3 metre poles would be better. The 2.4 would be OK for grapes but when you have the extra weight, it pulls it over. I can highly recommend using these gripples which allows you to retension the wires. The other thing we use is scrap electrical wire in 100ml lengths for trellising ties. With some of the younger trees we also buy notched rubber trellising ties and these allow the tree to expand. If you use other types, you always have to reattach them when the tree grows. When we did the new block, we bought 3 mtr poles and angled hem 10º outward and used screw-in anchors that have a head of 200mm diameter and drove them in with an auger to sit the poles in and the end assemblies came from Waratah and they use them in grapes and we used a larger gripple that uses the same tool to do them up. This new steel post system that we put in was very quick – the interposts cost $10.00 and wire assembly was $13.00 I use an electric compressor from the shed because the pneumatic secateurs haven’t got a very high air demand. It’s not like having rotary powered tools that take a lot of air like the chainsaw This is $80.00 for 300 metres so we run that out and just have droppers coming down with a fitting and just run your lines out from that so you’re not having to work with a petrol motor clunking next to you and it’s much cheaper to run an electric compressor.

Fertiliser  They’re fairly heavy feeders. When they come out of dormancy in September I give them a bit of Rustica N12 P5.2 K14  It’s similar to Nitrophoska. Campbells bring it in – it’s a Dutch manufactured one and it’s also got trace elements. The next application is in December.   I tend to put a bit of extra boron in my herbicide sprays so that gets done four times a year. They like a lot of calcium as well around the 6 – 8 level. pH should be 6 to 6 ½  (if it’s higher add some lime) – Stonefruit should be 5 to 5 ½

Sheryl How much Boron would you give per tree? John About a teaspoon of Boric Acid or Solubor 3-4 times a year and put it on anytime. Because it’s a very mobile element, it keeps leaching out. Probably not during winter with dormant deciduous trees. It doesn’t mix well with foliar sprays. If you did and mixed it with Zinc, you’ll get gelling in your spray tank.  I think that Rustica is a bit low in Zinc so you might have to top that up. Rule of thumb is every 2 years if it’s a problem year then you should get your soil tested every 2 years.

Irrigation  The sprinklers I have put on deliver 35 litres per hour  and in a relative dry week, after checking the tensiometers to see what is happening, I’ll put on 2 x 2 hour applications in a week so this works out to be approx. 140 litres to each tree per week. Spring is very dry around here so I start this program from when they break dormancy in September – they don’t use a lot of water at first, the main irrigation is up to December and from December you can cut back irrigation. With the tensiometer, you water it down to 10 centrebars of soil suction and let it come up to 35. 10 is fill capacity 35 is becoming dryer. The tensiometer can dry out and if this happens refill the water column.  I’ll come back in a day or two and it should be up over 40 but it’s not an issue during dormancy.  

Fruit   It depends on the market – they’re mainly export based – they’re one of the largest fruits in Asia. They’ll keep in a fruit bowl for three weeks. Sheryl I find Nashi and Kiwi are the same. If I’m down south during the Nashi season, I’ll buy a large quantity off the farm and they’ll keep in the fridge for months.

Sheryl  How long will they hang on the tree? John  Months. I’ve seen them in cold places where the trees have lost all their leaves but the fruit will be hanging on. Another name for them is the Asian Apple. In the First World War, they were the largest number of fruit tree species planted because they were so big in China and Asia in general.

Sheryl  How are you educating Australians to at them? John  I’m on the Committee and we’ve only just got levy funding to do R & D and marketing.

Sheryl  Do the fruit ever split? John  No but they get a calyx separation on the really big ones and that can be a bit of a nuisance because where they develop the injury, they’ll develop the ethylene around an injury and that will make them ripen fast.

Sheryl What causes that? John Just growing too fast. Sheryl Not enough water? John No I think it’s just to do with cell division particularly with Fuyu because it tends to happen only with the really big fruit when they’ll get calyx separation.

Sheryl Who do you buy your trees from?  John  Rossmount (Gympie) We got some others from Halfway Creek which is between Coffs Harbour and Grafton. We mounded the trees on a slight hill of approx 300mm with 4 metres between rows and 3 metres between each tree and the trellises and trees are planted on the centre of the rows.

Netting  We’ve used NetPro and Summit Netting. Dad designed the early nets. He was involved with the Wildlife Carers finding out what did keep the bats out.