Pialligo Apples

Project Profile

Nominee Pialligo Apples
State ACT
Award Ceremony 2010 National Landcare Awards
Category Primary Producer Award

Issues

Pialligo contains some of the best agricultural land in the Canberra region. Since taking over a four hectare block in the area in 1984, Jonathan and Robyn Banks have transformed the apple orchard from a conventional chemical based system, using synthetic fertilisers and various highly toxic materials for control of pests and weeds to an organically run, sustainable production of commercial fruit and without conventional pesticides, herbicides or synthetic agricultural fertilisers. Following an extensive transition phase, full organic status was achieved in 1994.

Project Detail

Pialligo Apples managers Jonathan and Robyn Banks have been nominated for a National Landcare Award for transforming their orchard into an organic, sustainable production.

Pialligo contains some of the best agricultural land in the Canberra region. Since taking over a four hectare block in the area in 1984, the Banks’ have transformed the apple orchard from a conventional chemical based system, using synthetic fertilisers and various highly toxic materials for control of pests and weeds to an organically run, sustainable production of commercial fruit without conventional pesticides, herbicides or synthetic agricultural fertilisers. Following an extensive transition phase, full organic status was achieved in 1994. Most of the original 1950s trees are still in production, with annual fruit yields of 15 tonnes.

The change in pest management system has been the main driver towards better landcare on the block. Since ceasing use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, the biodiversity of the orchard has increased noticeably. Docks and thistles, once common in the orchard, have disappeared and there are now many nests of bird species throughout the orchard as well as swamp wallabies, lizard populations, frogs and brown snakes.

The block’s watercourse is actively managed to maximise exit water quality and harvest silt and biomass sensitively for vegetable production beds. A central area of the orchard has been replanted with various native plant species of local provenance, in collaboration with Greening Australia, for seed production for sale, representing the diversification of the enterprise.

The block has a long history of collaboration with researchers. The control system used for codling moth is an integrated process developed specifically for the orchard and is unique in Australia. The orchard is one of just six Australian orchards with an experimental permit to use Madex 3, a codling moth-specific virus.

In addition to production, the Banks’ are committed to education.  Each year, the Banks’ host trainees through the International Agricultural Exchange Association. Trainees gain hands-on experience working on the land and learning about the production process in use as well as sustainable apple production and land management. The orchard also hosts schools, Australian National University and other educational institutions as well as placing work experience students from the nearby Orana School.

Pialligo Apples is one of 88 finalists in the National Landcare Awards to be announced in Canberra on 24 June 2010. Commencing in 1991, the Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and groups that make a valuable contribution to the land and coast where they live and work.

Photography

Pialligo Apples

Pialligo Apples