Certain districts possess advantages of soil and climate for the production of late maturing, long keeping apples suitable not only for the local market, but also for export. On the other hand other districts are eminently suitable for the production of the better class early apples (both dessert and cooking varieties) to meet the demand in the early part of the year in the Sydney market. NSW is an important market for apples from other states such as Queensland. The apple being native to the temperate parts of Europe and Asia tends to flourish in cool climates.
The ideal environment for apples is one which is:
mild in summer and cool to cold in winter
an average rainfall of not less than and preferably more than 700 mm per annum and which should be spread over summer and early autumn.
a reasonably fertile, well drained and deep soil.
Three of the four main apple growing areas in NSW which have all of the three desirable factors. They are Orange, Batlow and Armidale (Kentucky/Arding). Each is well situated to supply the Sydney market and in addition Orange can supply the west, Batlow the south and Armidale the northern towns of NSW. Armidale is situated about the same distance from Brisbane as from Sydney by rail and road and therefore, is well placed to supply both markets. All are "late" districts in that their particular climatic factors make them eminently suited to the growing of the late maturing and mid season varieties essential for cool storage and export.
Early apples grown in such areas mature at a period when they are almost certain to meet strong competition from lesser varieties grown in earlier districts and generally, there is no case for the encouragement of planting early varieties in such areas.
Apples which possess the inherent ability to mature quickly should be grown in an environment which favours this attribute. For example, Oakdale and Bilpin which cater essentially for the local market .
Considerable advantages to growers in more or less compact growing areas become apparent when one considers the very important part played in the present day marketing of apples by the use of cool stores, central packing houses, bulk cooling and buying systems, all of which assist greatly in cutting production costs and marketing produce to their best advantage.
Providers in small isolated areas even if well located, frequently lack access to such facilities. The isolated grower is likely to encounter labour problems especially when required to employ men and women for skilled jobs such as pruning, grafting, and packing.
The orchard should be protected against frost, soil erosion and wind. Spring frosts may cause damage to the setting or young fruit and occurs in all the main apple districts. For this reason the valuer should consider the orchard from an "air drainage" point of view. Adequate air drainage tends to minimize the damaging effect of frost. A number of orchards use shade cloth covers to protect the fruit from inclement weather and pests.
When there is a fair fall in the land below the orchard, the heavy cold air seeps slowly down to the lower levels, its place being taken on the higher ground by warmer, lighter air. An unimpeded air flow to levels below the orchard site is the most effective but inexpensive method of minimising frost damage. Therefore, the orchard should not be "pocketed" by heavy timber or topographical features. If the orchard has poor air drainage then the orchardist will have to extra cost in the use of wind machines to mitigate frost damage.
High winds can cause fallen and blemished fruit during the setting period. Therefore, the more valuable orchards have natural topographical features which help to protect the orchard from wind. The most efficient windbreak is a range of hills to the south and west of the orchard. These will provide the necessary protection against the prevailing winds in most apple districts. A good belt of trees, either native or planted, is also an effective windbreak. The direction or aspect of a slight slope is not that important provided the site is adequately protected from prevailing winds but a slope to the east or north east is preferable.
The availability of a good water supply in close proximity to the site is important as such a facility plays a large part in the economic working of the orchard, particularly in regard to spraying and irrigation. On level orchards a "turkey nest" dam may be required. The distance from rail and other facilities, and conditions of transport to and from the orchard are also matters for consideration as they are important in reducing costs. Rail is becoming less important as road becomes the main form of communication between orchard and market.
Without the aid of cool storage apple growing on a large scale would not be practicable. Before the advent of cool stores a multitude of varieties were grown so as to spread the harvesting and marketing periods as much as possible. Today, with the aid of refrigeration it is possible for the grower to specialise in a very limited number of the most popular varieties and yet be able to maintain his produce over a large part of the year. Not all apples are suitable for cool storage and the period depends on a number of factors such as variety, size, weather, stock, soil, age and the health of the trees, picking, maturity, disease and insect pest management of the cool store.