Apple supplier AC Goatham is looking to roll out a new GPS-based system of fertilising its orchards after it achieved a bumper apple crop this year despite the industry’s weather woes.
Goatham - which supplies apples to Sainsbury’s and Morrisons - started to use the system for the first time this year at its Gore Farm site, in conjunction with an existing irrigation system.
Growing results for this season showed that the farm had been “immune” to the weather problems that had plagued other growers, as the crop was full and high, said a Goatham spokeswoman. “The site is close to orchards that have suffered major crop reduction, undeniable proof that the system is the right one,” she added.
Prior to planting, Goatham took 60 soil samples per hectare to gain a detailed nutrient profile of the soil. A fertiliser spreader - equipped with a GPS-linked programme - delivered nutrients, such as magnesium, the volume of which was tailored to the nutrient profile of the soil identified by the samples.
As a result, Goatham is considering rolling out the system to its other orchards. Gore Farm comprises about 110 acres but the system would be used across Goatham’s 14,000 acres.
Usually, between one and four leaf or soil samples are taken per hectare in an orchard, to give a broad picture of its nutrient profile. However, it means that some areas of soil do not get enough nutrients and money is wasted on fertilising areas that do not require such large amounts of nutrients.