We recently received a phone call from a grower asking “What proportion of my flowers are open?” Normally that is a question that would be answered unreliably by either manually counting several bays and trying to find a ratio, or by walking the orchard with the ‘eye-ometer’ and taking a guess. Since we had scanned his orchard for flower buds the day before, we were able to provide him with an exact number. What we also found though was an anomaly that wasn’t easily explained.
When we generated a density map for open flowers only, we got an image which had no clear correlation with the total density*. While we expected to see either an even distribution of flowers, or perhaps a slight difference in development for higher density areas, what we saw was a region of the orchard that had a significantly higher number of open flowers than average, for no apparent reason.
The discussion that followed included fertilisers, sprays, and the position of adjacent windbreaks, until the grower offered a solution completely out of my scope of view, and completely reasonable to explain the difference. “That’s the same area where my hail netting blew out earlier in the year. The bottom end of rows 12 to 16 that we only got fixed a month ago.”
It would appear that something as seemingly insignificant as the presence of a fine mesh over top of the canopy actually yielded a major change in the way this crop was developing.
*Total density is the sum of the densities of flowers, flowerbuds, and triples, all of which are counted separately.