Border Post Friday, May 18th 1928

REFLECTIONS  OF  A  SOLDIER  SETTLER No 1                                          I have been again studying the contents of that little grey book, a copy of which was sent to every fruit grower in Queensland in 1923.  During that year the Council of Agriculture did some very necessary work on behalf of the fruit growing industry.  A special committee of the C. of A. was established for the purpose of reviewing the then existing methods of marketing and to consider the re-organisation of the fruit marketing in Queensland.

During the years since 1923, the “Queensland Producer” has kept the fruit growers well informed of what has been done to benefit the various sections of out fruit growing industry.  It will be readily agreed that some sections of the fruit growers have been well served by the operations of the Fruit Marketing Act, through the activities of the Committee of Direction.

Unfortunately for the fruit growers of the Granite Belt, the fruit-fly has been the stop-gap on the road to prosperity.  Although Dr. Goddard told the growers of this district four years ago, that the fruit-fly was amenable to control and although many growers were convinced of the possibilities of control, the Deciduous Sectional Group Committee considered the fruit-fly pest a good and sufficient reason for refusing to make an effort to place a standardised packing shed product on the Queensland markets.

Mr. Ranger’s review of the past season, which appeared in the columns of the “Border Post” on April 20th, shows to the interested reader that we are slipping and that unless we make some concerted effort this winter, we will always be at the mercy of the buyer, shop-keeper, etc. on the Brisbane and other markets.  Mr. Ranger, being practically our representative and observer on the Brisbane markets, can see the game that is being played by the buyers; but so long as we fail to supply the markets with a standardised packing shed product, then for just so long will our industry be at the mercy of the buyers.  When the buyers know that the Granite Belt growers are producing a standard pack of deciduous fruits, they will understand that the days of exploiting the growers are finished.  The Arbitration Court has made a “wages award” which affects the fruit growing industry.  By having a standard pack of fruit for sale, a fixed price for our fruit becomes a possibility and the “wages award” is one good and sufficient reason.

Mr. Ranger, in his review, repeats what Dr. Goddard said four years ago concerning the control of the fruit-fly pest.  Whether it is a fact or otherwise, that the Deciduous Group Committee dose not reflect the opinions of the growers, there must be no question about making a big concerted effort this winter, so that next season will see everything ready for a successful start in an attempt to capture our own markets.  In this connection the aspect that is most intriguing is the fact that many growers have established what they term “private markets”.  By having a standard pack such as Mr. Ranger has in view, these private markets would not be lost, but would necessarily be absorbed into the Packing Shed Marketing Association of all growers.  It is a well-known fact that some members of our Group Committee have “private markets”.  If these private markets are such a good thing, is it too much to expect that these same members will make no effort to retain such private trade without some guarantee?  We are no further ahead than we were four years ago, and the fruit-fly is not the only stop-gap.  When the Group Committee represents the growers the L.P.A. will come to life again.

But all this in passing, as it were:  What I am concerned with, is that portion of Mr. Ranger’s very interesting but rather depressing “review” considering the average yield of apples per year per acre over a period of five years, from 1921 to 1926.  From 46 to 53 bushels per acre is, as the review says, disastrously low.  The review continues:  These figures would suggest that we have a very serious production problem which may be due to several or all of the following factors:-

[a]  The unsuitability of many of our apple stocks.

[b]  The unsuitability of the land on some of our orchards.

[c]  The almost general failure to maintain the fertility of the soil.

[d]  The lack of efficient cultivation particularly during the summer.

I have something to say as regards a and b.  The c and d factors will tend to disappear when an efficient marketing organisation is operating.  We have heard a lot about the unsuitability of the Northern Spy stock.  We have been led by the nose to believe, that by having seedling apple trees planted in our orchards, our production troubles would disappear.  Now, suppose for this moment that the growers had either replanted their orchards with seedling apple trees, or had, according to one writer, grown vigorous seedlings along side of their Northern Spy grafted trees and then, after inarching or grafting the two buts and cutting away the old blight-proof roots, left the old bark-bound and ill-pruned tree with a new lease of life.  By the way, monkey glands would be more efficient.  If the reason why so many apple trees failed to give satisfactory results is because of the uncongenial or sour condition of the sub-soil; what is the use of planting other trees in their places?  The native trees in the bush are all seedlings; yet how many of them are deep rooting?

The writer does not know how long the Northern Spy stock has been in general use, but the reason why the seedling apple trees were discovered years ago was twofold.  The root system of the seedling trees were in many instances, infested with “blight” or Woolly Aphis, and the seedling trees did not come into bearing for eight or ten years.  The Northern Spy stock grafted tree was evolved after much experimental work and having a root system immune to “blight” and coming into bearing at four to five years, it came into favour and in places like Victoria, where the soil is sweet and deep and of an open texture, does very well.  Of course, the nurserymen in the south, being in business, send the duds of the plantations to the district with the least pull on them.  The only qualified alternative to the system or rather the lack of system obtaining here at present, is to have the C.O.D. buy our fruit trees for us.  When we have a packing shed product realising 15/- per bushel [perhaps] it will be quite the thing for the C.O.D. to arrange with the Southern Nurserymen for an annual supply of trees for a period of at least 10 years.  During that time, many, if not all orchards, will be renovated.  But I am getting ahead of my story.  Maybe I might just as well say right now, that it is my intention to prove to the grower with an average intelligence, like myself, that so far, he has laboured under a misunderstanding.

It has been said by one, qualified to know, that this Granite Belt country would be one of the most prosperous gardens in Australia, if worked under improved cultural conditions.  If my poor pen does not fail me, I intend to pass onto the growers of this district, that which “Lindley” has explained to me, concerning the “Great first principals of Fruit Culture” and which he taught to the English gardeners 70 years ago.  Horticulture is practically a lost art as far as the Granite Belt is concerned.

No 2 soon.