Orchard management techniques
It is important that the impact of orchard management techniques on storage potential and eating quality are realised so that both higher productivity and good fruit quality can be achieved.
Sharples (1973) carried out a comprehensive review of the many pre-harvest factors affecting the storage quality of apples. He separated the effects of permanent orchard factors such as soil type, rootstock and age of tree from the various management factors imposed by the grower.
The latter include different soil management systems, fertiliser application, orchard sprays, pruning, fruit thinning, etc. He also recognised that management practices were likely to change during the life of the orchard.
It is not possible within the scope of the Best Practice Guide to provide a comprehensive overview of the likely effects of every conceivable aspect of orchard management.
It is the intention to summarise the management practices that have the most significant influence on storage potential and eating quality. Much of the information contained in the review by Sharples (1973) may be relevant today although there has been a major change in emphasis as regards the quality of fruit that is required.
Maximising storage life is no longer the primary requirement. To meet current market demands management practices need to be focussed towards achieving the desired visual and eating quality and to use storage technology to maintain that quality for as long as necessary.
Major changes in storage practices particularly the introduction of ultra-low oxygen and extreme controlled atmosphere (CA) conditions (ultra-low oxygen and elevated carbon dioxide) have done much to sustain the ‘season’ for home produced apples despite an inevitably reduced storage potential due to increased size and later harvesting. Pre- and post-harvest factors that affect the textural quality of Cox apples were reviewed more recently by Sharples (1994).