At the annual National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) Orchard and Machinery Day recently, we talked about the importance of orchard management in producing the consistently high quality of fruit we need in our cidermaking.
We welcomed orchard managers, apple growers and cidermakers from all over the country to our Shiplate orchards for the event, which brought together around 250 people from across the industry. Gordon Johncox, NACM Chair, opened the orchard walk with an update about the cider market and NACM priorities. During the tour of the orchards, guests heard from industry experts in varying aspects of orchard management, and the importance of healthy orchards and apple production to the continued growth of the cider industry.
Advice on topics such as soil analysis and nutrition from our soil scientist Mark Tripney revealed the positive impact that these aspects have on yield and fruit quality. Furthermore, agronomist Matt Greep highlighted the effects of climate change being seen on the lifecycle of apple trees in different regions, and where growth is compromised through issues such as varying winter chill hours, how we have been able to successfully balance these through the appropriate orchard management.
Chris Muntz-Torres, our farm manager, talked about the successes of the hedgerow planting system developed at Thatchers. The hedgerow system sees the orchards planted in 5ft rows, supported on wires, and allowed to grow to around 16ft in height, shaped to give maximum sunlight to the developing fruit.
Our orchard team keeps quality of fruit at the forefront of all it does to ensure only the best fruit enters the cider mill at Myrtle Farm.
Visitors were shown apple varieties such as Three Counties that have excelled on the new hedgerow system and are producing plentiful crops year on year. With a light, loamy, free draining soil at Shiplate, the orchards are now home to 70,000 apple trees.
In order to be able to supply our cider mill at Sandford with the range and quality of fruit required, we have been committed to research and innovation for many years, amongst other things developing and trialling new cider apple varieties with the National Association of Cider Makers.
At Shiplate, we grow some of our favourite apple varieties – all bittersweet, such as Dabinett, Tremlett’s and Somerset Redstreak, while also introducing some of these newer varieties such as Angela, Lizzie and Prince William.