Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Fruiting Wall Apple Update

In 2013, my Fruiting Wall Apple (FWA) vs. Tall Spindle Apple (TSA) experiment was picked on September 11 at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard. As a refresher, these app. 8-year old Silken apple trees on M.9 rootstock were converted to the FWA in 2011, thus this is the 3rd year of harvest. There are 100 trees total, 56 are FWA and 44 are TSA. There are 3 full replications of 13-15 trees each FWA and TSA, with another FWA of 14 trees. This past year, I did give the FWA a quick dormant prune by removing 1, 2, or 3 of the more "onerous" branches in each tree. Then the FWA got hedged in early July with a hand-held electric hedge pruner. TSA got pruned per TSA rules,. i.e., remove 1, 2, or 3 of largest branches, singularize branches, limit tree height.

OK, I am going to make it easy on myself, here are the "raw" data from the 2013 harvest:

2013 ‘Silken’ Fruiting Wall Apple (FWA) vs. Tall Spindle Apple (TSA)

Converted to FWA in 2011

Yield in 2013

FWA = 3.7 bins X 15 bushel bins = 55 bushels = 2,220 lbs.
TSA= 3.7 bins X 15 bushel bins = 55 bushels = 2,220 lbs.

FWA = 2,220 lbs. divided by 56 trees = 40 lb. per tree
TSA =  2,220 lbs. divided by 44 trees = 51 lb. per tree

FWA spacing should be 3 ft. X 10 ft. = 1,450 trees per acre
TSA spacing should be 3 ft. X 12 ft. = 1,200 trees per acre

FWA = 1,450 trees X 40 lb. per tree = 58,000 lb. per acre = 1,450 bushels per acre
TSA = 1,200 trees X 51 lb. per tree = 61,200 lb. per acre = 1,530 bushels per acre

app. 5% reduction in yield for FWA vs. TSA

Those are the facts. I am still reasonably convinced after three years of working with the FWA that you will typically reduce yield (somewhat) per acre, and fruit will be somewhat smaller. There are mixed opinions amongst the harvest crew which trees were easier to pick? I think the FWA has the potential to put less load on trellis. (More compact trees.) Not necessarily sure who should convert, probably a bigger orchard where labor savings are paramount and somewhat smaller fruit can be marketed. What this study fails to show is what effect on fruit quality and packout, hence maybe profitability? I will leave the big research jobs like that to Cornell, but if it were my orchard, I'd buy a one-pass hedger and wouldn't hesitate to convert most of my orchard to the FWA. JC
Typical bin of FWA 'Silken'
Typical bin of TSA 'Silken'

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