Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Weather Data Source and Apple Scab DSS Model Output – Does it Make a Difference?

 Jon Clements (UMass Extension) and Daniel Cooley (Stockbridge School of Agriculture)

Weather data source, the location of a station, and DSS each make a difference in numbers of fungicide applications to control primary apple scab. So why the difference? Is the weather data different? Probably. Are the models interpreting the data differently? Probably. So it’s a combination of both? Likely.

In the Northeast it is not possible to produce apples commercially without timely fungicide sprays to control apple scab. Decision Support System (DSS) models based on weather data allow more targeted and potentially better scab control with fewer fungicide applications than a calendar spray schedule during the primary phase of apple scab infection. But does the source of weather data input or the DSS make a difference in predicting infection periods? To answer that question, we compared weather data collected in 2020 from several weather stations and a virtual weather data source at the UMass Orchard in Belchertown, MA.

Weather data was collected from four on-site weather stations at the UMass Orchard in Belchertown, MA. Two stations are situated close to one another, and the other two farther apart, as shown in Table 1. Weather stations included two RX3000 and one U30 weather station from Onset Computer Corporation (, and one Rainwise ( weather station. All collect temperature, wetness, and precipitation data, requisites to run the primary apple scab infection model on the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA). The NEWA apple scab model is based on Mills Table infection events with modification. We also looked at one “virtual” weather data service ( feeding weather data into RIMpro (, a cloud-based DSS running its own (proprietary) version of the apple scab infection model. RIMpro was also run using data from the Rainwise weather station.

Table 1 - Name (DSS used in this blog post), Station hardware, Lat./Lon., Elevation, and DSS of weather stations or virtual weather data source at the UMass Orchard, Belchertown, MA. (Click on Table to see larger.)

Examples of how and when infection periods for NEWA and RIMpro were determined are shown in in Figures 1. and 2. respectively. Then, all apple scab primary infection periods evaluated by each system is graphically illustrated in Figure 3. Red color-filled table cells with an ‘x’ in them are scab infection periods (by day). Yellow color-filled cells are presumed fungicide spray infection prevention events that are based on a few simple rules: a preventive fungicide spray before every infection event; a post-infection (kickback) spray during longer infection periods and/or during the accelerated phase of ascospore maturity/development; and for RIMpro, following the previous two rules, but only when the RIM infection value exceeded 100 (daily RIM value indicated by the number). From Figure 3., all primary infection periods from green tip to 100% ascospore maturity and final release of spores, and proposed spray events were counted for each Decision Support System and are shown in Table 2.

Figure 1 - Example of how apple scab infection periods are counted in NEWA. (Click on Figure to see larger.)

Figure 2 - Example of how apple scab infection periods are counted in NEWA.

Figure 3 - Apple scab infections (in red) predicted by DSS and suggested spray events (in yellow) for the primary appe scab season beginning 1-Apr iland ending 30-June. (Click on Figure to see larger.)

Table 2 - From Figure 3, total number of Infection Periods and Proposed Sprays during the primary apple scab season by DSS (Name).

Primary apple scab infection periods ranged from three infection events for RIMpro up to ten infections for NEWA (Table 2). Spray events followed similarly, ranging from three fungicide sprays to twelve sprays. Thus, the number of infection periods and proposed fungicide sprays vary significantly, from three to ten and three to twelve respectively. There are several sources of variability that could result in such different DSS outputs, including: virtual vs. hardware weather station (including manufacturer), location in the orchard, and different DSS interpretations of the scab model, particularly NEWA vs. RIMpro. Several assumption, particularly when it comes to spray events, have been made too, which could be argued. But these differences are concerning and could result in a grower taking different actions, and experiencing different outcomes, like getting scab, depending on how weather data is collected and what DSS is used. Therefore, there is a need for further field testing using fungicide applications applied according to each Decision Support System.

For further reading:
Clements, J., and D. Cooley. 2013. A Comparison of Two Sources of Environmental Data and Three Model Outputs for Primary Apple Scab in 2012 at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard. Fruit Notes, Volume 78, Spring 2013.

Garofalo, E., A. Tuttle, J. Clements, and D. Cooley. 2016. Discrepancies Between Direct Observations of Apple Scab Ascopore Maturation and Disease Model Forecasts in the 2014 and 2015 Growing Seasons. Fruit Notes, Volume 81, Spring, 2016.

Weather data in, DSS out for apple scab infection period model -- does it make a difference? (YouTube video.) A comparison of four on-site weather stations and one virtual weather service as data sources in 2020 for the apple scab infection period model in two Decision Support Systems at the UMass Orchard in Belchertown, MA. A presentation at the 62nd Annual New England, New York, and Canada Pest Management Conference for Extension, research, and consultants, October 19, 2020 via Zoom. ©2020 Jon Clements and the UMass Fruit Advisor, Or play here...

Comparing the Malusim app to the ‘Schwallier’ and ‘Ferri’ XLS spreadsheet versions of the fruitlet growth rate model in 2020 to predict fruit set in Gala, Honeycrisp, and Pazazz® apples


Chemical thinning sprays are the most trying and most important decisions an apple orchardist can make. Factors that influence chemical thinner application include weather, carbohydrate balance, and fruitlet growth rate. The Malusim app ( uses the fruitlet growth rate and carbohydrate balance models to better inform chemical thinning decisions. Two XLS (Microsoft Excel) spreadsheets are also available for inputting fruit measurements and predicting fruit set based on the fruitlet growth rate model.


Five tall-spindle apple trees in each of three varieties – Gala, Honeycrisp, and Pazazz® –  were selected at the UMass Orchard in Belchertown, MA. In May 2020, bloom (total number of flower clusters) in each of the five trees was counted to get an estimate of potential fruit set, and fourteen flower/fruit clusters were selected and tagged for fruitlet growth measurements. Fruitlet measurements were started on 27-May, and then made on 31-May, 4-June, and 12-June. Fruitlet measurements were entered using the Malusim app smartphone (iPhone) voice recognition feature and results calculated in Malusim ( to get predicted fruit set. From Malusim the same data was exported and used in the Schwallier and Ferri XLS spreadsheets/apps to get predicted fruit set. The Ferri XLS spreadsheet is a modification of the Schwallier sheet by Tom and Joe Ferri, T&K Orchard, Clarksburg, Ontario, Canada and not publicly available, but available on request. The fruitlet growth rate model output included percent fruit predicted to set and fruit numbers per tree on each measurement date so that the need for a chemical thinning spray could be better assessed.

Honeycrisp trees selected for counting bloom and measuring fruitlets

Cluster selected and tagged for subsequent measuring apple fruitlets

Digital caliper used for measuring fruitlets

Sample Malusim app output

Sample Schwallier XLS spreadsheet output

Sample Ferri (modification of Schwallier) XLS spreadsheet output


For each variety, all three predictions of fruit set were similar within variety. Therefore, any of the three “apps” could be used to predict fruit set. In the end, however, final fruit set, as counted by the number of apples left on each tree, was less than predicted by the apps except for Pazazz®. And actual fruit number per tree counted at harvest was less than the target number of fruit per tree. (Ugh.) A severe carbohydrate deficit at the time of chemical thinner application – as indicated by the Carbohydrate Balance in Malusim – is the likely culprit.

Gala predicted fruit set. Target was 80 fruit per tree, actual at harvest was 45 apples.

Honeycrisp predicted fruit set. Target was 70 fruit per tree, actual at harvest was 26 apples.

Pazazz® predicted fruit set. Target was 70 fruit per tree, actual at harvest was 12 apples.

Significant carboydrate deficit in the Malusim app during the chemical thinning window


Although the fruitlet growth rate model is a useful tool to help guide thinning decisions, setting it up and measuring fruits is an onerous process and has not been widely adopted by growers. What’s needed is a faster and simpler method of assessing fruit growth rate during the chemical thinning window. To that end we are investigating, and in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, computer imaging and learning to visualize and calculate fruit growth rate. Early results are promising.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Marssonina blotch

Recently I visited a block of EverCrisp apple trees in an orchard in the hilltowns of western Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River. I went to look at what is probably the largest planting of EverCrisp apples in Massachusetts. A few acres, with more in the works to be planted. The trees are 3-4 years old and on Geneva 41 rootstock. A couple of observations and even more questions.

First, crop load management is essential as EverCrisp can go somewhat biennial if over-cropped. And apple quality is not what it should be on over-cropped trees. What is the best crop load (number of apples) and chemical thining recommendation for EverCrisp?

Second, EverCrisp appears to be quite susceptible to the fungal disease Marssonina coronaria causing the symptom Marssonina blotch. Now, the big question is how important is it to keep this disease under control until the fall harvest? These EverCrisp had not been treated with a fungicide in well over a month, and groups of trees showed signifiacnt Marssonina blotch. Even some partial defoliation. The grower acknowledged that Marssonina blotch has been observed on these EverCrisp trees in the past. A standard fungicide program for apple scab -- that includes Captan and mancozeb fungicides, because it appears these fungicides have good activity against Massonina -- should keep it at bay for the majority of the growing season. Slacking off on fungicide applications towards harvest, however, can result in Marssonina blotch becoming rather "ugly." So my questions include:

  1. Will letting the disease build up -- it overwinters in leaf litter on the orchard floor -- make it more difficult to control in future years? (Remember, sanitation is a basic tenet of plant disease control.) 
  2. What are the ramifications of late-season "leaf blotch" and partial defoliation on tree health and productivity?
  3. What fungicides have best action against Marssonina, and how late into the summer or early fall should fungicide application continue?
  4. What weather conditions are most favorable for Marssonina infection? Surely moisture is an essential ingredient, and in fact, RIMpro has a Marssonina coronario infection risk model. Migh be worth heeding.

I know some of these questions are currently trying to be answered by University researchers in the Northeast, but Marssonina is a relatively new apple disease here and EverCrisp appears particularly susceptible. Both it's parents, Honeycrisp and Fuji, are known to be susceptible to Marssonina. So keep an eye out on those EverCrisp blocks!

Marssonina leaf symptoms on Evercrisp apple, 20-October, 2020

Under magnification, dark spots are diagnostic for Marssonina

Typical Marssonina "hot spot" in EverCrisp trees on 20-October, 2020; trees in background are less afflicted; defoliation of heavily diseased trees is occurring

RIMpro Marssonina model for the UMass Orchard, Belchertown, MA

Saturday, April 11, 2020

2015 Modi Organic NC-140 Apple Rootstock Trial and Drapenet Demonstration

Blogger note:waiting too long for this to appear in Fruit Notes/Horticultural News. Sorry Wes and Win...

Jon Clements, Elizabeth Garofalo, and Wesley Autio

This NC-140 ( rootstock planting in a commercial “Certified Naturally Grown” (CNG, orchard gets more disappointing every year. In 2019, now in its fifth-leaf, more trees are dying or failing, and fruit quality and yield in 2019 was pretty abysmal. It’s unclear if low fruit set and yields are a result of pollination issues or the “organic” management regimen? In 2018 there were virtually no apples, but the entire rest of the CNG orchard was light too. In 2019 the CNG orchard had a good crop, but these Modi trees had a light to moderate crop (at best) of apples. Another problem was the amount of insect damage, mostly plum curculio and internal lep worms (codling moth or Oriental fruit moth) which made the CNG apples quite deformed and small in size. Weed control and fertilization remain organic orchard issues. My take home to date is that G.890, because of its vigor, is a good choice for organic orchards. Although G.30, G.202, and G.41 are acceptable too. (Maybe throw G.969 and G.214 in the ring?) G.16 is not right in this planting, and M.9 has really under-performed. G.935 has some issues, wondering if it is the virus/rootstock/scion interaction? Liberty trees on G.935 planted between replications and as guard trees have all died. Marssonina leaf spot was confirmed in September, and has been causing early defoliation of these Modi trees.

In 2019 a Drapenet ( was installed over replications 1-6 (and not 7-12, there are two rows) the primary objective being to see if insect damage could be reduced. (Although there was a lot of hail around in 2019.) The Drapenet was installed on May 19, 2020 during late bloom, and was secured to the bottom wire with plastic wire ties. Inspection of the apples in late June showed that it was pretty much wholly ineffective at preventing plum curculio damage, however, a more formal harvest survey of 100 fruit per treatment (covered with Drapenet vs. uncovered) for damage showed that internal worms, mostly likely caused by codling moth or Oriental fruit moth, were greater in the uncovered (35% damage) vs. covered (12% damage) replications. But, as already mentioned, PC damage was greater in covered (80% damage) vs. uncovered (51% damage). Interestingly, the incidence of apple maggot fly injury was also greater in the covered (26%) vs. uncovered (5%) apples. Sooty blotch/flyspeck was also greater in the Drapenet apples (59% for sooty blotch, 21% for flyspeck) than the uncovered apples (19% and 12% respectively for sooty blotch and flyspeck). Note that at the UMass Orchard Modi performs just fine, and in fact, was one of the most beautiful apple crops I have ever seen. (Modi apple pictured above.)

These results are just investigatory, as the covered vs. uncovered was not randomized and replicated for statistical analysis. But a recent article in Fruit Quarterly ( also showed (research conducted at Michigan State University) that Drapenet is effective at reducing/minimizing flying moth damage (codling moth, Oriental fruit moth, oblique-banded leafroller).

Note that Modi is not available to apple growers outside of a California packing house ( It was bred in Italy, a cross of Gala X Liberty and is scab-resistant. It has been marketed in Europe as an enviro-friendly apple (

Installation of Drapenet on 15-May, 2019 over Modi apple trees in the
2015 NC-140 Organic Apple Roostock Trial in a CNG orchard.

Tree and yield characteristics in 2019 of Modi apple trees in the 2015 NC-140 Organic Apple Rootstock Trial in a CNG orchard.

Trunk cross-sectional area (sq. cm. trunk area) and cumulative yield efficiency (2017-19, kg. apple per sq. cm. trunk area) in 2019 of Modi apple trees in the 2015 NC-140 Orgamic Apple Rootstock trial.

Typical insect damage (and russet, Septmber 2019) on Modi grown in in a CNG orchard, includng plum curculio, Oriental fruit moth, and apple maggot fly.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Improvements to MaluSim (Cornell Apple Carbohydrate Thinning Model)

In the most recent Fruit Quarterly (Vol. 28, No. 1, Spring 2020) Dr. Terence Robinson and co-authors introduce some improvements to the Cornell Apple Carbohydrate Thinning Model, also known as MaluSim. If you remember, MaluSim is a decision support tool to help make effective chemical thinning applications based on predicted thinning efficacy. Inputs to the model require temperature and sunlight which are derived from a NEWA weather station. Outputs include a daily Thinning Index and recommendation to increase or decrease chemical thinner rates. Many apple growers have indicated the MaluSim (Apple Carbohydrate Thinning) is one of the most widely used decision support tools on NEWA: 
The rationale behind Robinson making these changes/improvements to MaluSim are based on their annual study from 2000 to 2011 where experimental thinning treatments (using carbaryl, NAA, and 6-BA) were applied to apple trees in Geneva, NY and annual data on flower bud density and then cropping (yield, fruit size) was recorded. Weather data was input into MaluSim where a daily carbohydrate balance during the chemical thinning period was calculated and compared to the crop load at harvest. It turns out:

  • The greatest effect on fruit set was timing of chemical thinning application, with the best thinning occurring at 200 to 250 degree days (Base 39 degrees F.) Note that king fruit diameter centered about 12 mm during this window. (I remember my MSU colleauge Phil Schwallier, who has done many chemical thinning trials over the years, saying he has consistently got the best results when chemical thinners were applied when fruitlet size was 10 to 12 mm.)
  • Initial flower counts (bloom intensity) have to be taken into the equation too. When there are more flowers, more aggressive thinning is needed vs. having fewer flowers.
  • Carbohydrate balance also had an effect on fruit set, but was much reduced (or non-existent) outside of this degree-day window of 200-250 DD’s.
  • And, the actual daily carbohydrate balance should be expanded to a longer period before and after the thinning application compared to the “old” MaluSim which used a 4 day running average to compute the daily carbohydrate balance.
So, based on this research the new Cornell Apple Carbohydrate Model on NEWA (Apple Carbohydrate Thinning v2019) was modified as follows:

  • Users must input % flowering spurs before running the model, with four choices: 76-100%, 51-75%,, 26-50%, or 0-25%. (Note the user must also input green tip and bloom dates. Don't accept the NEWA default green tip date, enter your own. Bloom date should be when 80% of the flowers are open on the north side of trees.)
  • Degree Days are automatically calculated, summed, and highlighted in the DD column when they are in the range of 200-250 DD’s (Base 39 degrees F.) from bloom.
  • Calculation of the “Thinning Index” (daily carbohydrate balance) is expanded to seven days (two days before the day of thinning to four days after)
  • And, thinning recommendation, taking into account % of spurs that are flowering, DD’s from bloom, and carbohydrate balance over seven days (all per above) will be color coded red=high risk of over-thinning, yellow=caution, possible over-thinning, green=expect good thinning, and blue=little or no thinning expected.
In 2019 the older Cornell Carbohydrate Thinning Model will be replaced by the new and improved Apple CHO Thinning v2019 MaluSim model and you are advised to use that. Note that CHO thinning is also available in the Malusim app available on both iOS and Android smartphones for mobile access to thinning recommendations.

Cornell Apple CHO v2019 NEWA interface

Cornell Apple CHO v2019 NEWA output

Sunday, October 20, 2019

"Adventures" in apple thinning in 2019

Is it just me or is it every time I think I chemically thinned apples adequately, come July, it’s like where the heck did all those apples come from? In the ideal world, we would have a hoard — I mean literally thousands — of people, out there hand thinning in June. Obviously not going to happen. Therefore, chemical fruit thinning remains one of the most challenging AND most important spray(s) of the year. Some of my “adventures” in apple chemical thinning in 2019 follow.

The nibble fruit thinning approach as espoused by Dr. Duane Greene at UMass was advisable. This includes using NAA (Fruitone, PoMaxa), carbaryl (Sevin), and 6-BA (Maxcel, Exilis) at the appropriate timing (beginning at bloom and continuing through 10-12 mm fruitlet size) and during good weather (warm, partly cloudy, neither of which occurred together at a particularly good time). Still, this approach generally resulted in inadequate thinning. Apple trees were rarely under considerable carbohydrate stress during most of the chemical thinning window for chemical thinners to be particularly effective. But, it (nibble approach) definitely did some thinning. Some might argue the results were acceptable. But I am tired of too many small, clustered-up apples, particularly when it comes to crop-load sensitive varieties like Honeycrisp wherein fruit quality (size, red color, and flavor) suffers.

NEWA output, apple carbohydrate model, UMass Orchard, Belchertown, MA

The Pollen Tube Growth Model. 
New this year, I followed it (the PTGM, closely, fully intending to apply lime sulfur to a block of Honeycrisp. Which I did. The result, it smoked the flower petals at a high rate! I was pleased. I was so pleased — and a bit scared! — that I did not follow-up with another application of lime sulfur, which is advised per the PTGM to get that last cohort of flowers, including lateral bloom, that was pollinated. Kind of a mistake, as although the lime sulfur spray at bloom definitely resulted in king fruit set only (mostly?), at the end there was still too many apples on these trees! Hand thinning followed in the summer. Note to self, don’t be gun shy, follow the recommendation of the PTGM. Of course if I do it again next year, and apply lime sulfur twice, I will probably strip the trees! (Would not be the first time, see below.) So, who out there is willing to give bloom thinning with caustic thinners a go in 2020?

Honeycrips flowers after 4% lime sulfur solution application
The result on most clusters after lime sulfur application. Sweet!

Malusim app and the fruitlet growth rate model. I used the Malusim app ( in its first year of general release to help measure apple fruitlets and predict fruit set (using the fruitlet growth rate model.) Four varieties — Pazazz, Gala, Fuji, and Honeycrisp. Two sets of trees — five trees per variety, five (only) flower clusters per tree. Only 25 flower clusters per variety. Suppose to do 75. Trying to see how little I can get away with, yup, I’m lazy, I’ll admit it. The result, well, interesting. Seems like things were pretty much on track. With the exception of the lime sulfur application, all other trees received the standard UMass chemical thinner application(s), whatever that was. I won’t bore you with all the details, you will have to wait for an upcoming jmcextman blog or Fruit Notes article, but suffice it to say, in the end, still too many apples at harvest. Too damn many.

Malusim app output predicting fruit set of Gala apple trees in 2019 at the UMass Orchard

Yes you can, strip trees of apples that is. Using ethephon. And 6-BA. And Vydate. Yup, I did it, Golden Delicious, really sick of hand thinning in the past, so a tank mix of above did it. Really did it! And fruits were about one inch diameter! Bottom two-thirds of trees, all apples fell off beginning about a week after application. Interestingly, top one-third of trees had a nicely thinned crop. Shows you where the spray hits and where spurs are weaker (more shaded). Also, there was a pretty good carbohydrate deficit around application. Good thing I don’t make a living doing this.

One more quick note, multiple applications of ReTain, again using Duane Greene’s recommendation, did a nice job of holding Honeycrisp on trees and they took on real nice color in October. A major PYO orchard in easter MA confirms this approach. For more information:

Honeycrisp apples at Tougas Family Farm on 10/18/19 that were treated with ReTain

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Yes, my blog seems to be heavy on #IFTA (International Fruit Tree Association) posts. Probably because it's one of the more interesting, and photogenic things I do all year? mine pales in comparison to coverage by Good Fruit, Growing Produce (American Fruit Grower), and Fruit Growers News (see links at end), but it's a good exercise for me to document. Make sure you also check out #iftaontario on Twitter.

#IFTAONTARIO Headquarters, Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA, a port city of just over half-million people on the west shore of Lake Ontario. Major economy is manufacturing and is the steel capital of Canada. We got the impression it is a diverse city too, 25% of the population was not born in Canada. (Curious how that compares to major U.S. cities?) A real interesting and copiously stocked food store housed in the mall below the Sheraton hotel called Nations Fresh Food...and had some pretty nice calamari (and margaritas) at a Mexican restaurant called TheMule. Dinner company with Lisa Jenereaux (IFTA President) and Pedro Cuevas, Semios Washington Account Manager. I learned a lot about Semios Automated, Remotely Controlled Climate, Insect and Disease Monitoring and Treatment.

Yummy fried calamari at TheMule in Hamilton

DAY 1 -- Orchard tours in the Norfolk region, mostly west of the Niagara escarpment.

Stop 1: University of Guelph Research Station with U. of Guelph Dr. John Cline and OMAFRA's (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs) Amanda Green. Dr. Cline discusses preliminary results of 2014 NC-140 Honeycrisp apple rootstock planting featuring Vineland and Geneva rootstocks. Here is a preliminary report prepared by Dr. Cline. From the report "V.5, V.6, and V.7 appear to be more vigorous and slightly less yield efficient (than G. 935), but offer cold hardiness and resistance to fireblight (rootstock not scion resistance)." Also see the planting page on And Amanda Green told us about the significant parternships in Canada to develop and test new apple varieties. We also made a quick stop at a cider variety planting/trial as there is significant interest in apples for making quality ciders in Canada (as well as the U.S.).

Dr. John Cline with the cider apple variety planting

OMAFRA's Amanda Green talks about new apple variety evaluations
Stop 2: Hedges Apples, wow, owner and IFTA Director Chris Hedges is managing 250 acres of apples (including 75 acres of new plantings) as well as owning and operating Ontario Orchard Supply. Formerly a banker, you can tell Chris is into analyzing all aspects of his operations. And I doubt he works bankers hours anymore! We had lunch in his brand new 10,000 bin CA cold storage. At Hedges Apples, we were also treated to a demonstration of Crop Adapted Spraying by showman Dr. Jason Deveau, OMAFRA Application Technology Specialist. I won't get into the details, you can see much, much more at but I did like that H.S.S. "airblast" sprayer. After listening to Jason, I hesitate now to call it an "airblast" sprayer though.

Chris Hedges elaborates on his many jobs running 250 acres of apples plus Ontario Orchard Supply

Dr. Jason Deveau makes spray depostition entertaining but with an important message!

Stop 3: After lunch at Hedges new cold storage, we made a non-orchard stop at Northland Ginseng Farms. Ontario can produce a high-quality Ginseng root, but the challenges are many, including land availability (crops have to be rotated after a 4-5 year growing cycle) and Chinese competition of inferior quality ginseng, according to the farmer. But Phil Schwallier sure seemed interested?

"Hey, this looks even harder than growing apples, maybe?" says Phil Schwallier of ginseng.
Stop 4: On to Norfolk Cherry Company, where a scheduled tour of the tart cherry packing company was put on logistical hold. We spent most of our time looking at a young (planted 2018), free-standing Honeycrisp block on V.1 rootstock. I have no pictures, which maybe says something -- it was not bad, but could have just as easily been a free-standing young tart cherry planing if you get my drift. Will be interesting to see how it turns out?

Stop 5: Last stop for the day was Lingwood Farms. A bit of a downer because co-owner Ken Porteous has no real good succession plan in place right now, despite the orchard having been around since the mid-1800's. Still, a solid, good, well-executed orchard despite some recent challenges with a tornado (support sytem held up), fire blight, and black stem borer. (I'll put my 2 cents in here and say it's really not the black stem borer that is the problem, it's something else -- cold injury, wet feet, canker? -- weakening the trees and making them susceptible to invasion by the ambrosia beetles. Chicken-egg? Egg- Chicken? IMHO.) We looked at Ken's 3rd-leaf Gala tall-spindle "tipped"trees, AKA Wafler system. Seems to me there was pretty good approval of it...

The IFTA crowd gathers at Lingwood Farms to listen to Ken Porteous discuss his recent orchard challenges

3rd-leaf tall-spinde "tipped" Gala apple trees at Lingwood Farms

DAY 2, beginning with two-hour bus ride to Georgian Bay. 

The ride was not too bad as the Ontario countryside -- once out of the greater Toronto metro -- was quite lovely.

Stop 1: To No End. Not remembering a lot here, the manager was a bit of a character, was not afraid to tell it like it is/was. I have minimal notes, so I don't remember too many details, but he was doing his own (I think) two-leader apple trees. This was a no-nonsense orchard, that overall looked good as did the 2-leader trees. I thought anyways. Maybe I was just a bit groggy after the bus ride?

Looks like Leslie Huffman (OMAFRA, retired, and barn quiltand vinegar lady)
leads the discussion at To-No-End
Two-leader and Gala block at To-No-End.
Stop 2: Sandy Creek. After a wonderful lunch at a private ski lodge/club, manufactured orchard from Italy at Sandy Creek. Planted this year. Want one? Order it up -- Might be hitting $70,000 per acre complete with cement posts, wire, irrigation (trickle and overhead for frost protection), and hail net. (Want DIY cement posts? Includes installation. 30 acres? (Was suppose to be 60, but could not get it done this year.) Can't remember, don't think trees were included, but they are included in that app. 70 grand price tag. (I may be on the high side, but I think it's close. So what if it was more like $60,000?) Solid Honeycrisp, I think the plan was to install some pollinators. Some trees were flagging a bit which would concern me. Interestingly, the manager was a field crop guy (corn and soybeans) so this was all new to him. Their consultant was notably absent but I guess he only spoke Italian so that was kind of a no-starter. I don't know, will be interesting to see if they can make any money before the Honeycrisp market goes south. (If/when it ever does?) Kudos to them if it works out.

Explanation of process and costs associated with manufactured orchard by at Sandy Creek.

Nice place to stand and enjoy the shade provided by hail net. Outstanding looking, but prepare to get out the big checkbook. Note a couple trees on right are not looking so good, would concern me after spending that much money. Fire blight? Site issue? Phytophthora? Not sure...

Stop 3. Apple Springs Orchard with frequent IFTA travler Kyle Ardiel (and father Shane). Another cooperative apple variety trial planting, and a vjust-planted, rather experimental IMHO, V-trellis apple block that included a new Honeycrisp strain from U. of Minnesota with presumably redder sking color? Kyle represents a new generation of apple farmers given the latitude by their parents to try out new ideas while continuing with the family orchard. Best wishes to the young growers, we hope they continue the two-way learning relationship with IFTA.

Young, experimental V-trellis, including spring-grafted, numbered red-strain Honeycrisp from U of MNat Apple Spring Orchard.

Stop 4. T & K Ferri Orchard, including dinner in the orchard. Tom Ferri is a hard-working, rather animated character who's life appears to be his orchard. Tom has been cultivating super-spindle trees for a while now, and in a harsh environment up there has recently suffered some tree loss to SAD (more on that later), but overall the manicured orchard looked fantastic. Tom and a computer-savy partner lead a discussion on precision thinning using the fruitlet growth rate model. Karen hosted a catered "communal" dinner in the orchard which was a delicious and perfect way to end Day 2 of #iftaontario. Very satisfied. Sharing some wine with good company/friend and MSU Extension Agents Amy-Irish Brown and Phil Schwllier helped. I learned Phil likes his Kentucky Fried Chicken while on the road back home!)

Tom Ferri (right) and collaborator talk about how they modified the apple fruitlet growth rate model to suit their needs. They did the procedure on many blocks with mixed results. Typical of chemical thinning anomalies that everyone experiences! Got to have a bit of luck thrown in the mix to get it perfect! In other words, "precision" is a bit of an oxymoron! Weather rules!
Beautiful super-spindle Gala at T&K Ferri Orchards. Maybe a little over-thinned, eh? Otherwise perfect!

FINAL DAY 3, including return to Hamilton.

First, a couple stops in the morning while departing Georgian Bay.

Stop 1. Botden Orchards. Equipment display and description of operation of each -- which of course had all the guys (and maybe a few gals?) typically oohing and aahhing, equipment displays always a big hit at these IFTA tours -- by owner Marius Botden. And then a quick discussion about smaller tools used in the orchard to assess fruit quality and growing conditions (soil moisture) byMost notably -- I think, I'm not an equipment guy! -- Boden Orchards is the exclusive grower of the Red Prince apple, which is a trademarked strain of Jonagold from Belgium. A very engaging stop overall.

Marius Botden at beginning of equipment discussion, Botden Orchards. That rather ET-like contraption in the background is an over-the-row sprayer. Marius is afraid of heights, so he has never been up in the "cabin!"

Gerbe Botden talks about some tools used to monitor orchard conditions and fruit quality while IFTA Board member Jim Engelsma listens intently.

Stop 2, and last stop in Georgian Bay before heading back to Norfolk regions, was Bamford Family Farms where OMAFRA's Kristy Grigg McGuffin talked about SAD/RAD, Sudden Apple Decline/Rapid Apple Decline (the latter seems to be preferred, otherwise it is just too sad). Seems this pheomenah of Rapid Apple (tree) Decline is caused by a series of environmental insults that might include winter injury, poor site conditions, and plant pathogens (including fire blight). Young- to middle-aged on dwarfing rootstocks pushed to the limits of production seem to be most afflicted. (But of course there are many such healthy trees too.) Bottom line -- no easy answer, keep trees happy and fingers crossed. Oh and it's all about Location, Location, Location I think. :-) Throw in some good management too. We did look at some older (15 to 18 years) bearing blocks planted on M.9 too.

Wrapping it up with Stop 3 at Chudleigh's Farm back in the greater Toronto metro. Total change of pace, Chudleighs is a direct market, destination, agri-tainment mecca. Owner Tom Chudleigh's apple blossom pastries are legendary and lived up to expectations. I found their choice of some of the pick-your-own varieties, which included Canada-bred (out of British Columbia) Sunrise, Silken, and Creston, along with Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Cortland, and (maybe) some Macs, interesting. Many direct-market tips and tricks here including wide rows for customer breathing room (they get very, very busy on fall weekends), large, bright red apples on the trees, and entertainment and food for those in the family not all that into just apple picking. They might be called "dads" and "boyfriends?" :-)

Tom Chudleigh and co-workers talk about their PYO varieties and systems. It's different than what we saw already, trust me. Use of hay mulch is interesting, but voles are not a problem with the turf-like groundcover management. But that is one of the least interesting points of Chudleigh's.

Want more? After reading all this? OK...

And don't forget to check out #iftaontario on Twitter! Eh?