Mid January 2024
It is 2 weeks into January. The orchard floor is just a hive of insect activity, the floor feels thick, green and you can smell the moisture as you walk through the orchard. The surrounding land use at Kootingal is focussed on mono-crop, grass, lucerne and feed crops for beef, but here on the orchard floor away from pesticides and tilling is an oasis of activity. We have some 20 different types of annual and perennial cover crop shaping the biodiversity of the floor. This year with the crickets, grasshoppers, stick insects and butterflies are plentiful. But also beneath the surface there are fat healthy worms and grubs as well as evidence of fungi and bacterial activity within the soil structure.
This is the orchard floor at the begining of January. Kootingal pecan company will continue to let this continue growing until some in late March about 6 months from harvest and then mulch the floor, returning all this vegetative material to the floor. For a location where the air temperature is early 30’s celcius this is a wonderful oasis to be in each day.
This years organic pecans are showing signs of recovery as the young pecans are almost twice the size of the previous seasons.
The pecans have sprung and grown from about 30-32mm in length at the end of December to just over 40mm by January 11th. The improvement is better moisture and nutrient delivery to the tree. Last summer, Louis and I worked through the heat of the summer, trenching and connecting a new irrigation system to the trees. We opted tfor a 41 litre/hour sprinkler system. this covers an radius of some 50m2, for more effective than a dribbler for many reasons, though the most important is spread of resources for the trees via fertigation. As well as by covering such a large radius the Pecan trees are encouraged to send out feeder roots to draw the water and nutrients up into the system. We can see the moisture with the solil probe going down to at least a metre when we a regularly running the irrigation each day. WE believe that this menas the nutrients and food for the tree go deeper and we see more activity within the soil with aeration and microbiological nutrient release.
With more and more feeding and fertigation we also upgraded the hose on the main 100mm irrigation line. Farmers are constantly looking to gain time back. I am certainly no exception to wanting to gain time. By putting a larger diameter hose the delivery of 1,000 litres into the shuttle for mineral and food dilution went from about 20 mins a time to 3 minutes. Now we are spending less than 10 minutes a day filling the shuttle, saving about 50 mins a day or about 6 hours a week! Over the season that is about 4 of your corporate weeks of work, saved, go the hose!!!
We applied a wood chip mulch over areas of the orchard floor where organic material appears to be thinnest. The wood chip was from last year prunings and we still have a lot more to go. The intention with el nino forecast to shape summer this year was to preserve moisture and encourage biological activity. Having already experienced the dry autumn of 2023 going into the harvest and river with a decreasing flow spreading the pecan wood chip mulch became a priority to help manage the floor.