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The Best Of Grandfathers’s Husbandry In Combination With The Best Of Modern Technology
Sainsbury′s, H E Hall & Son and Orchrdworld announce launch of Sainsbury′s Organic Concept Orchard

Today, August 29th 2007, OrchardWorld Ltd and Sainsbury’s in partnership with Peter Hall unveil a unique Orchard which pioneers the way organic apples are grown in the UK. The Orchard is based at H E Hall & Son Ltd in Marden, Kent and is the first of its kind in the UK and has been created with the objective of producing large volumes of organic apples.

The growers are HE Hall & Son Ltd, a small family farming business established in 1896 and currently managed by Peter Hall – the fourth generation. The objective is to produce a large volume of organic apples of 25 tonnes/hectare, in the second year after planting rising to 50 tonnes in year 3. This would compare to about 10 tonnes maximum in year 8 achieved in most current organic orchards.

The system used is a Dutch ‘Table Top’ and was developed for conventional production to combine high yields of high quality apples with exceptionally efficient use of scarce and expensive resources such as water, fossil fuels and Grade 1 land; it is also an ideal system to adopt for organic production.

The orchard has 10,700 trees on an M9 dwarfing rootstock spaced at 80cm to 1.2 metre depending on variety in rows 3.2 metre apart. The trees are firmly tied to a wooden cane and wirework structure, held in place by concrete straining posts. The varieties range from well known Cox, Gala, Braeburn, Bramley and Russet to the more modern Estival, Pinova and Early Windsor – varieties chosen for their flavour and resistance to disease.

Applications of inputs such as manures and pest control systems are based on a volume per hectare. In simple terms, if one produces 50 tons per hectare as opposed to 10 tons, the amount of input per tones of output is only one fifth of that currently used.

Similarly, only one fifth of the fossil fuels will be used in mechanical operations, and the targeted drip irrigation system applies water directly to the rooting area with none of the waste associated with overhead sprinklers, rain guns or flood irrigation. Moisture probes are permanently sited in the rows to monitor the exact crop demand for water allowing exact application of irrigation water at a fraction of the normal rate.

Currently just 3% of organic apples sold in the UK are British grown but with these new techniques, growers would potentially be able to bring this amount to over 70%.

For the consumer, the new orchard will mean a greater quantity and variety of English grown organic apples available for purchase. It is anticipated that the reduction in the need to import organic top-fruit will go some way to helping reduce the global carbon footprint associated with the transportation of fruit. In addition, OrchardWorld are trialling the most popular conventional varieties such as Cox and Royal Gala which currently have limited organic availability. If successful, OrchardWorld, HE Hall & Sons Ltd and Sainsbury’s will be able to offer consumers their favourite varieties in an English organic form.

Mark Culley, MD of OrchardWorld says, “We are very excited to be collaborating with Sainsbury’s and HE Hall & Son in this way. We have an environmental responsibility to find better ways of growing and distributing top-fruit and we fervently believe that this new orchard is a huge step forward.”

Russell Crowe, Sainsbury's Organic Produce Buyer says, “Sainsbury’s is committed to sourcing as much organic produce from the UK as possible, and our Organic Concept Orchard is a fantastic example of where we have been working with researchers and growers to make growing organic more viable. We’re really looking forward to offering our customers as many UK grown organic apples on our shelves during the season as a result."

Publication date: 8/29/2007


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