Integrated Orchard Management: Planning for Long-Term Success
Establishing an orchard is a long-term process that requires extensive planning and investment. An integrated orchard is a diversified mix of fruit and multi-purpose plants growing together that contains a wide variety to be more productive and sustainable. On the other hand, an integrated management approach for orchards means a system that includes details on the usage of chemicals for pest and disease control, the source of all planting materials and planting plans, harvest, grading, delivery, and quality control records related to a particular orchard.
Geographic location-specific planning (i.e. layout and selection of species for 4 or 5 layers of trees as well as shrubs) and management of the orchard can be done through technological aid. For example, simulation software can help decide on which plants to select for upper, mid or lower canopy levels or shrub and ground layers of the orchard based on variable data sets like location, soil type etc. Besides, electronic sensors in an orchard can identify fertilization as well as irrigation requirements with precision. It saves cost and optimizes yield. Another important aspect is the multitude usage of agricultural drones. Apart from imaging and planning of the orchard from the top, drones are now capable of spraying inputs and supplements required for the orchard in different locations in an efficient way. Perhaps the best part of tech-enabled integrated orchard management is harvesting. Automated harvesters are now getting deployed in orchards in different parts of the world. Apart from tractor-mounted machines, smart fruit harvesters or robotic fruit pickers may save labor requirements in orchards further. Considering the increasing farm mechanizations and the dire need for automation, Government may provide policy and subsidies for an integrated orchard management approach among different stakeholders that includes farmers as well as the agribusinesses.
Dr. F H Ansarey
ACI Agribusinesses Division