QUEENSLAND CUSTARD APPLE GROWER STICKS WITH SILVAN

After considerable research Queensland custard apple grower Dan De Clara has chosen to buy his third Silvan sprayer by recently upgrading to a new Supaflo 2000L unit.

According to Mr. De Clara the sprayer, purchased from Matthew Taylor at Black Truck and Ag represented the best value for money compared to other brands.

The fact that Silvan, the Melbourne-based manufacturer had been around “for a long time” (57 years in fact!) and knowing the product was good from his two previous sprayers were other factors that swayed him.

Mr. De Clara, together with his wife Katrina and three school age sons run a 450-tree orchard at Beerburrum on the Sunshine Coast.

He especially liked the two-sided poly conveyor, which helps direct “90 per cent” of the spray sideways on to his trees, which have been planted in a hedge row formation. “It’s fantastic,” he said.

His previous sprayer a fiberglass Silvan Airblast distributed the spray via a circular fan, which meant losing a proportion of the spray into the atmosphere. It replaced an old Silvan Turbomiser.

Mr. De Clara was also impressed with the after sales service provided by Regional Sales Manager for the North East Ian Davison, who spent a whole day on the orchard setting the sprayer up.

“Dan wanted to make sure he understood all aspects of the machine so we spent a fair bit of time doing speed calibration tests before setting up the sprayer,” Mr. Davison said.

According to Mr. Davison the mid-range sprayer is ideally suited to custard apple orchards like Mr. De Clara’s as well as vineyards and trellis grown tree crops.

After taking delivery of the machine just over a month ago, Mr. De Clara managed to complete one spray at the end of the season which took him just over 30 minutes to cover his 2-hectare orchard. Previously it took him almost an hour.

The other features Mr. De Clara likes about the Supaflo 2000L sprayer are the electronic controls inside his cab which negates the need for hoses trailing from the back of the tractor, which could get caught up with the wheels.

During the growing season between September and June, the trees on the orchard may be sprayed with pesticides, fungicides or liquid fertiliser from between every 10 to 14 days. So, directing the application more accurately was seen as essential to saving costs.

Mr. De Clara and Katrina planted their first trees in 2011 on an 8ha block he bought off his father, a former tobacco and sugar cane grower.

After looking at different potential enterprises they settled on custard apples as a part time farming business to supplement their full-time office jobs.

Mr. De Clara was introduced to custard apples by a friend, that he had played soccer with when he was younger, and his wife who at the time was the president of Custard Apples Australia.

Being only a small industry Dan and Katrina found every grower they spoke with very supportive and willing to share their knowledge about growing custard apples.

“That’s what swayed us,” Mr. De Clara said, “and we have since made some great friends within the industry.”

They ordered 250 trees, then another 200. A further 250 trees have been ordered for planting by Christmas. That will take the orchard up to 650 trees considered to be a mid-sized custard apple orchard.

It takes about four years before the trees start producing fruit and 7 years to achieve full production.

The trees are planted in 8 metre rows with 4 metre tree spacings in a hedge row formation rather than spacing them 8m apart as was the tradition. That prevents the trees getting too high, Mr. De Clara explains, doing away with the need for a cherry picker at harvest.

The variety grown is a self-pollinating sport from Hillary Pinks Mammoth called the K J Pink, one of the most popular varieties. It is a prolific pollinator and producer of fruit. Its size equates to that of an orange up to that of a pineapple, measured as sizes between 6 (for large) to 16 (for small) in the industry.

Dan, who is today vice president of the industry association Custard Apples Australia Inc, and Katrina sell their produce into the wholesale Sydney market with a small proportion of their fruit also exported to South East Asia.

While prices remain good, according to Mr. De Clara they are similar to a decade ago. In the meantime, costs have spiraled by up to 200pc so profitability has declined accordingly.

For more information call 1300 SILVAN (1300 745 826) or email [email protected]lvanaust.com

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