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Orchards Designed By Computer


A new computer program for orchard planning, which can provide maximal profit in specific local conditions, is developed by a team from Krasnodar supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises. Recommendations offered by the program are based on the data on environmental conditions and soil-climatic requirements of orchard trees, and primarily, stone fruit crops (apricot, peach, cherry).

Potential yields of various fruit crops in a certain soil-climatic situation can be estimated using computer software developed by the horticulturists from Krasnodar (North Caucasus) on the basis of a vast data bank, digital maps, and GIS application for viewing and creating such maps. These materials were provided by scientists from Krasnodar, Moscow, and Obninsk, and the work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises.

This project will help orchard farmers to avoid massive losses in lean years. They will even forget about bad harvests and failure of crops, because recommended crops will be just optimal for planting in the local climate and soil conditions. Besides, if one crop fails, the loss can be covered by the yield of another crop, i.e., the program provides a kind of insurance to farmers.

"Actually, everything is simple," - says the project manager Irina A. Dragavtseva - "It’s necessary to identify and consider the responses of crops to the environment and the potential of the latter and, afterwards, to offer an optimal crop distribution."

Firstly, the team members collected the cartographic data base for geographic information system of Krasnodar region. This GIS contains an environment for combining various maps of that region by placing one map over another like layers of a cake. Specifically, the set of superimposed maps is as follows: digital topographic map, delineations of the region’s boundary, locations of 35 meteorological stations, distribution of commercial orchards, and soil map.

The two latter maps are supplied also with a server for getting information (e.g., on weather during a certain period or on soil properties) by clicking in a certain point on the map. The programmers have also developed four digital maps: one of absolute heights, the other of slope angles and aspects (which is necessary for orchard planning), and also maps illustrating the suitability of different parts of the region for cultivating pear and apple trees. Of course, the new software needs further improvement, but most important part of this business is already done.

The next step is really impressive: creation of computer bank of biological data on 71 characteristics of growth and development of fruit crops. These are phenological phases from the bud swelling to fall of the leaves, and particularly, phases of flower buds’ development and tree growth on the whole. Data on capabilities of various crops for surviving frosts, droughts, and heat and for resisting pests and other vicissitudes of life are included too, as well as information on orchard management and corresponding yields of fruit trees. In total, this bank comprises data collected within a period of 14 years on 8 crops of several tens of sorts.

An intricate system for data processing (available software specially adjusted for this project) allows for using all that information as not only an enormous library that is important in itself, but also as a tool for yield prognosis. Soon, orchard farmers will find those fruit cultures and sorts, which are most adapted for the local conditions of their garden and can provide stable high yields in response to wise management.

And there will be no need for learning from mistakes while choosing the most appropriate cultures for an orchard, since the program can offer the most comfortable place for each crop and also a beneficial combination of trees to obtain high yields every year.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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