The recent Gala Club event (5 September) saw how investment in new planting and infrastructure at Gore Farm in Kent is paying dividends.
Part of the AC Goatham group since 2007, the 45ha farm claimed the East Kent Fruit Society's orchard of the year title last year. It has been entirely replanted with Gala, Rubens and Braeburn on a standardised post, cane and wire trellis system.
In addition, the trees are not only irrigated but also fertigated automatically through a trickle system, with a GPS mapping system recording soil profile and applications, allowing targeted application of nutrients such as potassium nitrate and magnesium nitrate.
"You can't put too much potassium on Gala - it gives you the size and colour," said production manager David Riccini. AC Goatham representative Sarah Calcutt added: "The trees are healthier, more resistant to pests and diseases and already look a year older than they are. It's a blueprint for what we will roll out across the company."
In what is already the farm's most productive field, yields of more than 60 tonnes per hectare are anticipated, despite the difficult growing conditions, said Riccini.
One visiting Gala Club grower commented: "I haven't seen a bit of scab, which is quite something given the year we've had."
Ruccini added: "We are also happy with the Rubens apples. We had 97 per cent grade one last year and it's my favourite to eat. We will be planting more."
Gala Club - Twenty years of helping the industry by sharing advice
This year is the 20th that the Gala Club has met. Formed back when Gala stock was first introduced in the UK, it serves as a means of exchanging advice on the variety.
"There has been a huge upsurge in Gala production," said English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow. "They now account for more than a quarter of dessert apples sold in the UK." AC Goatham technical manager Nigel Stewart added: "Without Gala, this industry would be in a sicker position than it is now."
The club hopes to mark its 21st anniversary with a special event at East Malling Research next year, according to club chairman Harry Woodridge.