Mr Arnold said they worked with a packer to market their fruit and exported between 50 and 70 per cent of their produce.
“Generally, the export categories are more lucrative so we're actually trying to get ourselves to grow more export-quality fruit.”
“The customer is more and more connected these days to the food they put in their mouth and the health benefits and the ethical benefits.”
He said customers were interested in a range of issues including worker well-being and the environment.
“This generation wants to know how the citrus has been produced and its effect on the environment. Certain markets are more sensitive to this than others and demand this more than others. We farm with that in mind as well because we have a passion to farm sustainably.”
Farming in the Riverland region of South Australia is a challenging environment and Mr Arnold said they had implemented a lot of changes to help them be more resilient and add to production.
“The biggest thing we've done in the last five or six years is adding full cover netting to our orchards,” he said.
This was originally done to counter extreme wind events and storms which blemished the fruit.
“It allowed us to pack more of a class one product and helped as a hail barrier as well. We had a hailstorm a couple of years ago, and it held up. “It also takes the extremes out of the heat in summer. Looking at climate change we’re told there's going to be some more environmental extremes. For us, it's a way to mitigate those extremes.”
Netting has reduced solar radiation and wind velocities and allowed an increase in yield per hectare.
Mr Arnold said when they worked back to yield per megalitre, they were about 35 per cent better off with the netting.
“That’s part of the package,” he said. “The netting creates a really nice environment for the trees but also for some beneficial bugs as well.”
They were also growing a range of cover crop species inter-row to encourage and harbour beneficial insects which have a role to play in controlling pest species.
“We run an integrated pest management system through our orchard,” Mr Arnold said. “We want to encourage our natural populations of beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs.”
He said they had successfully released populations of beneficial insects to predate pests such as two-spotted mites and thrips and also reduce the need for insecticides.
“We have a threshold level that we work out so we will always tolerate some pest damage. Once a threshold hits a point where we think it will create significant financial impact, we'll then try to work out what chemistry we could spray.”
They looked at targeted insecticides that worked on the physiology of the pest but left the beneficial insects in the crop to continue to work.
“We are geared towards a model of trying to be as soft as we can on the environment and encourage beneficials to proliferate while we keep our insect pests at a low level.”
Mr Arnold said they were also paying attention to their soils and inputs such as water and nutrients.
“We're focusing more on trying to learn about how the soil can aid us and give us that resilience.”
Their drip irrigation system allows nutrients to be applied directly to the target areas and is changed depending on the time of season and the results of soil and leaf analysis.
“We can apply prescriptively to the trees in their root zone. We use automatic controllers to dose the amount and also monitor our moisture levels to make sure we are not pushing those nutrients and water past root zone levels.”
Pyap Produce was part of the Corteva Agriscience Climate Positive program which highlights farmers doing the right thing for the environment.
“I think the customer is going to dictate our social license to farm in a way and it is also important to make sure we are science-based, not destroying the environment we're farming in and creating healthy, safe fruit,” Mr Arnold said.
“If we don't have a suite of environmentally friendly, safe products to use we're not going to be able to satisfy our customers as farmers.”
It is definitely important that businesses like Corteva keep investing in their R&D to bring these products and allow us to then grow for the customers’ requirements.”
Mr Arnold is a Director at Citrus Australia and said he is passionate about ensuring the Australian industry flourishes on the World stage.
“We love farming. We love our product. We want to make sure we are growing the best fruit we can, and we always want to learn.”
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