Thursday, January 22, 2009

MFGA winter meeting

A week ago today, the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Association (MFGA) and UMass Extension Winter Tree Fruit Education Program was held at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, MA. Over 100 members of MFGA, interested fruit growers, industry personnel, and Extension/University personnel attended on a cold, but bright, winter day.

Highlighting the Education Program was Dr. Terence Robinson of New York's Cornell/Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station. Robinson is a worldwide authority on intensive apple production systems and crop load management. Hence, he gave two excellent talks in the morning -- one on the tall-spindle apple production system, and one on new technology being developed to better manage apple crop load with chemical thinners. In the afternoon, however, was the real treat, a trip out into the UMass Orchard to demonstrate pruning of mostly young super-spindle, tall-spindle, and vertical-axis apple trees by Robinson. In a nutshell, he espoused 4 rules for annual pruning tall-spindle (or other intensely planted) apple trees:
  1. limit tree height to 0.9 times row width
  2. remove 2 to 3 of the largest branches on the tree
  3. "columnarize" all remaining branches
  4. on 'Gala' in particular, cut pendant or weak branches back to pencil-size wood
Here is a slide from his talk further illustrating these rules.

We were extremely fortunate to have Robinson give the pruning demo, and all in attendance gained significant pruning and production savvy during the daylong Program.