Bundaberg Field Days March 2007

Written by fruit   // 02/04/2007   // 0 Comments

Report on Field meetings for 2007 RFCA Annual General Meeting Weekend at Bundaberg 

The day started at Gordon and Jenny Tait’s about 25 km west of Bundaberg at 9:30 am for morning tea before a walk around their orchard. 

About 30 people turned up and we all loaded into several 4wds for the 1km drive over to the orchard. The hot and humid weather with threatening showers had everyone hopeful for some rain to cool things down, but made it too uncomfortable to walk over. 

The orchard consists of about 1 Ha of fruit trees arranged as about 10 rows of mixed species although single species are generally grouped together. Rows are about 5m apart with mown grass in the inter row space and bare ground or some mulch around each tree. Gordon and Jenny have planted a big collection of some 40 varieties of mango and too many other fruits to list here. The hilltop is frost free with a red loose clay soil and has a wide range of tropical, sub tropical and temperate species fruiting successfully.

The tree I was most surprised to find growing successfully was the Rollinia, which I had thought to be an extreme wet tropical species, although it is growing well on the Atherton tablelands, which gives a clue to its cold tolerance. Also going well were lots of citrus, longan, mango, white sapote, quince, as well as the 50 or so others, making this collection a very important source of information for a fruit tree data base showing survival likelihood to be assembled this year.
Some of the fruit we managed to taste included longan, white sapote, quince, antidesma, ceylon star gooseberry, while black sapote, green sapote and mamey sapote were still immature. Some brave souls even tried olives fresh off the tree! Now that’s astringent.

Then back to the house for a cool drink and a tree auction with some great trees going at $1 – $10, before a vast array of hot and cold foods provided by Jenny and the Hinkler branch

We all drove a few kms over to the Electra hall for the Annual General Meeting followed by dinner provided by the Hall committee at only $20 each. 

Sunday 25th March 
We regrouped on Sunday morning at Lenzie and Ailsa Duffy’s 6 year old plantation near Hervey Bay with everyone admiring their persistence in getting trees to grow in a very acid and fine silt soil capable of setting to a near copy of concrete when dry, breaking up to bulldust when worked. Lots and lots of mulch was the secret, as well as growing the trees on mounded ridges to help provide some drainage. 

We were led in seeming endless zigzags through another packed hectare of densely planted trees, which will lead to shading problems and pruning issues soon, but looking very happy at the moment. 

Ice cream beans provided a good source of nitrogen rich mulch while keeping the nearby trees very happy as well. A red sha toot mulberry gave everyone a good snack and we all nibbled on some horse radish seeds. 

One mystery tree had lost its label, creating an instant competition for the name. The winner will be announced in 3 years or so when the tree fruits, with the main betting on Lacoocha. There was also a garcinia species? which had never fruited, but was believed to have sexes on different trees. 

Lenzie had planted two trees, which were in flower, so we were all able to see the difference between male and female flowers. Carrying male flowers over to the female flowers will give a better chance of producing fruit. 

Lenzie also showed off his fly proof shade houses, giving him the perfect carambola, made out of scrap reinforcing rod with a shade cloth cover. I’m still wondering if the shape being square or pentagonal had an impact on the fruit quality! 

Back into the cars then for the run over to Yerra outside Maryborough, and lunch with Errol Duffill and Regina Parsons. Regina excelled in producing salads for lunch with 1 and a 1/2 hands, having lost a fight with some scissors the night before, while Errol convinced the BBQ to hand out some appetizing morsels of sausage and chicken. 

Just when it was time to sleep and digest all of this food, we had to get up again and inspect another superlative orchard, really giving the lie to those who believe that North Queensland is the centre of the rare fruiters. 

The soil quality on this farm is perfect for those wanting brickies sand for mortar. The loose sand goes down about a meter before clay is available, so although drainage is very good, trees can dry out very quickly when they are young. We all had a good feed from a soft Jakfruit, ripe on the tree, as well as some more longan, acerola, Herbert river cherry, beach cherry, a keitt mango, rheedia, pecan nuts and Chinese raisins and I’m sure some more my memory has misfiled. 

Labelling in the memory is one issue and labeling in the orchard can be a similar problem. Regina’s solution with hand glazed ceramic tiles is certainly weatherproof, but a bit time hungry for most of us lesser mortals. Not as goodlooking but just as permanent were their labels using metal dies stamped into aluminium sheet. The next step down in tidiness would be pieces from an aluminium drink can cut into slices and scratched into with a sharp pen. Whatever, so long as it is weatherproof at least for a few years.

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