Reducing Energy Use and GHG Emissions of a Commercial Apple Orchard

27/12/2012 § Leave a Comment

Engaged 383ppm in 2007 to complete a carbon footprint of their apple growing and storage processes, this was before there was a Carbon Trust standard so we worked closely with Carbon Trust to agree an approach and verify our findings and in 2008 we returned to implement some carbon reduction measures and to help communicate the work to a wider audience. Before we start a bit about Blackmoor:

  • Grower of Premium English Apples since the 1920’s
  • 100 ha Top Fruit orchards
  • Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco
  • Pack house & Fruit Nursery

 

Our work found agrichemicals (insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertililsers) to be the largest sources of carbon emissions. This is important because for a number of reasons (poor data from manufacturers, uncertain science) the emissions due to agrichemicals are probably the least understood or easily quantified.

Agrichemicals are the largest source of Carbon

Agrochemicals are the largest source of Carbon

Some varieties are a lot easier to grow than others and it shows in the carbon footprint. Cox is a more delicate fruit requiring more support during the growing season and needs more application of agrochemicals hence the greater emissions when compared to Gala.

Cox requires more support to grow successfully

Cox requires more support to grow successfully

Fruit grown on a traditional tree has a 40% greater footprint than one grown on a Trellis system. This simply down to yield per unit hectare – planting density 800 per ha in a Traditional orchard and 2,600 per ha on a Trellis orchard. Due to the flat geometry of the a trellis tree (fruit very nearly grows on the main trunk of the tree) whereas on a traditional tree you get significant branching before fruit is produced – this benefits the trellis tree as spraying is a lot more efficient and targeted. This means you apply the same amount of agrichemicals on ha of Trellis trees as you would on a ha of Traditional trees.

Trellis systems have significantly lower carbon emissions

Trellis systems have significantly lower carbon emissions

On the ‘Trellis’ Tree the fruit grows nearly directly on the main trunk so no energy is wasted growing extra woody material, additionally it’s a flatter 2-D structure making it easier and more efficient to spray agrochemicals and absorb sunlight.

Traditional Trees

Traditional Trees

Trellis System

Trellis System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Bird: Low Carbon does not imply High Tech

Fruit is cooler at daybreak than later on in the afternoon – less time and energy to pull down. Currently harvesting starts at 08:30, early bird would start at 06:00Field measurements show apples are around 9 °C at 06:00 and can reach 31°C in the afternoon. On a “typical” day pull-down times could be lowered by 21%, on a hot day by over 40%. Orchard managers should plan to use Early Bird using short term weather forecasts. Apples should go into storage as dry as possible the surface moisture is no greater at 6:00am than at 10:00am, in fact is probably less.

Early Bird Cooling Curve

Early Bird Cooling Curve

Best Practice: Often Low Carbon

Fruit is collected by pickers and put into fruit bins (circa 350kg) in the past empty bins were placed individually between orchard rows and collected again by tractors when they were full, you’d end up with tractors driving up and down rows all day, burning a lot of diesel and reducing the productivity of the picking team as they waited for a bin to replaced. The picking train an innovation introduced by Blackmoor before we started work in 2007 reduced diesel usage by driving a train of three bins very slowly between a row of tress as they fruit is picked, when the bin the three bins are full they are driven out again, all in a single pass of the tractor.. The electric vehicle in this picture is not usually part of the picking train it’s normally a diesel tractor. This EV was trialed as part of 383ppm’s work in 2008.

Electric Picking Train

Electric Picking Train

Marks and Spencer decided to take advantage of the work done and are using a unique label for apples from Blackmoor Estate. The label reminds the consumer about the great taste, that the apples are British and uses an uncontroversial element of the carbon footprint (Trellis) to make a low carbon claim and allude to the ongoing commitment of Blackmoor to reducing carbon.

Marks & Spencer Low Carbon Label

Marks & Spencer Low Carbon Label

Conclusion: A Meaningful Low Carbon Label

  • Transparent & Practical Analysis
  • Often Best Practice is Low Carbon
  • Well communicated commitment to innovation and continuous improvement
  • Focus on commercial benefits (cost and competitive advantage)
  • Taste & Nutrition are still the consumers top priorities

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