A new trail will adapt an orchard redevelopment practice which has proven to be effective in the United States to Australian conditions, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of orchard production.
‘Whole Orchard Recycling’ involves chipping trees and incorporating them into the orchard soil prior to planting new trees. It replaces the traditional practice of burning the trees once they have been removed from the orchard.
A Victorian almond grower will participate in the trial, which is being delivered through Hort Innovation and led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) the research arm of the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA).
The trial is taking place on a farm in Merebin has been applied to close to three hectares of 30-year-old trees. At this age, the orchard’s productivity begins to decline which is a signal to the grower that it needs to be redeveloped.
Researchers will also assess any co-benefits from orchard recycling such as more rapid orchard tree growth, and improved irrigation-use efficiency and soil health.
SARDI Principal Scientist Paul Petrie said almond tree trunks, branches and roots accumulate significant amounts of carbon during their lifecycle, and through this project, his team will be looking at ways to harness that carbon.
“We aim to quantify the impact of Whole Orchard Recycling on the carbon footprint of an Australian almond orchard, including the impact on carbon storage and turnover in the soil, soil greenhouse gas emissions and any impacts on the newly planted trees,” he said.
Trial site owner and long-time almond grower, Neale Bennett, said is keen to test the practice here in Australia.
“There is no doubt that we have an obligation to grow as sustainably as possible and while there is always room for improvement,” he said. “We all want sustainable business models and if that means doing things differently, then I think our industry has a great record for embracing change and innovation.”