Saturday, August 6, 2011

IFTA 2011 Europe Study Tour, Day 5, Belgium

During the last day of the IFTA 2011 Summer Tour, and after an overnight stay in the City of Brussels (right by The Grand Place), we first visited a commercial pear orchard in the Sint-Truiden area (east and north of Brussels) with Tom Deckers, PCFruit Researcher. The V-form pear orchard seen here with Deckers appears to be the norm with trees planted app. 2 meters apart using the dwarfing Quince rootstock. (Which apparently is not particularly winter-hardy, limiting it’s use in North America.) Production of 60 tonnes/ha is expected at maturity said Deckers, as well as “the good fruit size essential in the pear business.”

Next stop was Carolus Trees, where Koen Carolus showed us his “sprinter” trees which are spring bench-grafted and planted 1-year nursery trees pushed hard (hence “sprinter”) with fertigation. Koen claims the sprinter trees are nearly equal to 2-year knip boom trees and it allows Carolus to be swift in production of varieties in-demand. 15-25 tonnes/ha in the 2nd-leaf.

Carolus is also an apple grower and Koen was clearly enthused with his mechanized fruiting wall ‘Fruit Management System.’ Based on a single summer hedge-prune (with a custom-built tree hedger) and blossom thinning with the Darwin string thinner Koen achieves many ‘fruiting outlets’ and has increased yield (by 20%) over the conventional production system (which is similar to a tall spindle). Fruit are more equal size and it has not been biennial. But, says Carolus, “some dormant pruning of weak and strong wood by hand is necessary every 3 years.” Carolus says a fruit grower can come to them and they supply the apple and pear trees and system(s) that allows them to “grow to spec for their customer.”

During the afternoon we visited the nearby PCFruit research center,, where “research with expertise in crop protection is directed to growers.” PCFruit is non-profit with funding by grants (50%), industry and consulting (30%), Province (10%), and growers (10%, each paying 100 Euros to be a member and receive newsletters, etc.). Applied research is intended to be industry-directed and demonstrative and informative. Here, Scientist Jef Vercammen goes over a rather large pear systems trial at PCFruit. Turns out pears are an bigger crop than apples in Belgium.

For more pictures of Day 5, visit my Flickr photo album. JC

Sunday, June 26, 2011

E-mail to 'appleman'

Huge cracking problem on my [sweet cherry] fruit. Picked and evaluated 7 cvs. today.
Black Pearl looks best among the Pearl series (vs. Burgundy, Ebony).
Black Pearl would be wonderful under covers. Birds are minimal on hill
where I put the plastic hawks. (But cracking real bad.) Birds becoming
a problem in my super-spindle cherry, I am going to Tractor Supply
tomorrow to buy more plastic hawks. Will see if that helps. I think I
am going to close-hedge super-spindle cherries with hedge trimmer
after harvest -- why not?

Hedged Silken today, look good. See: Scab
already on Silken fruit. Have to do the rest of my apples tomorrow or
they will wait until next Friday.

Raining again here right now (Saturday night) -- this is the kind of year when cherry covers
would pay for themselves pretty quick.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pommier, Le Mur Fruiter (aka 'Apple, Fruiting Wall')

I was in Belgium last month where Koen Carolus of Carolus Trees in the St. Truiden region showed us their 'fruiting wall' method of producing apples. (Video.) In a nutshell, all pruning is done with a hedger, and usually just once a year. Huge labor savings. Does it work? Growers claim higher yields of medium-size, above-average quality of fruit are produced on dwarf trees spaced app. 3 ft. apart. Otherwise, the trees would have been managed like a tall-spindle.

Of course I had to try it myself, so I split a row of Silken apple trees on M.9 rootstock going into their 4th (5th?) leaf up into 2 groups -- either fruiting wall or tall spindle. I bought a B&D battery-operated, hand-held hedger at Home Depot and gave the fruiting wall trees their first haircut just after bud-break. They will receive another hedging when about 8-10 bourse shoot leaves develop.

Here you can compare the bloom density of the two systems -- fruiting wall or tall spindle. What do you think?


Why we hate to love Honeycrisp

Honeycrisp is notoriously biennial if left to it's own. Look a the return bloom (or lack of it) on May 12, 2011 on this group of Honeycrisp apple trees (top picture) on Bud 9 rootstock at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, MA. These trees bore a crop of about 740 boxes per acre in 2010. A good crop. Too good a crop apparently if I want to pick any fruit in 2011. I failed.

Compare that to the return bloom on these McIntosh (bottom picture). These trees yielded 1,385 bushels per acre in 2010! And, they will have a good yield in 2011. You got to say one good thing for McIntosh -- return bloom is generally not a problem. (In fact, it is a very productive apple year-after-year.)

So, what's a Honeycrisp grower to do? Thin early and heavy during the on year and start adding Fruitone-N at the rate of 2 oz per acre with cover sprays (after thinning is done). That should help even out production. Oh, and pay attention to dormant pruning when you can do some spur pruning to start the process of producing consistent crops with Honeycrisp. Note also that this biennial bearing problem is worse on young trees and some growers report (anecdotal) more evening out of the crop as the trees age.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

MassCon Project: Maiden Voyage of the Tunnel Sprayer

MassCon Project: Maiden Voyage of the Tunnel Sprayer: "April 27, 2011: We hooked up the tunnel sprayer and ran it for the first time over trees.  All worked remarkable well. Observations: ..."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A tale of 2 (or more) nursery cherry trees?

Yesterday, I was at Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Conway, MA to look at a new sweet cherry planting under a just-installed Haygrove Super Solo Tunnel.

What interested me, was the fact that there were some Radiance Pearl trees (all Gisela 5 rootstock) that were very nicely feathered, and with some branch bending, would be perfect for this hi-density cherry planting under a plastic tunnel: Pictured at left and click here for bigger picture. Notice the nicely feathered tree with small branches at just the right height. I told the grower to tie these down and he would have fruit on them next year, and this would be a very easy-to-manage central-leader sweet cherry. Immediate question: were these trees treated with Tiberon in the nursery? Or is this a variety effect? I understand these trees were from a small (ornamental) nursery in western Washington state, custom-grown for Summit Tree Sales.

Now, compare those trees to these trees: Picture and picture. This is what we more typically see in sweet cherry, rather big 'honkers' with few or no branches (whips) that are somewhat difficult to develop nice branching on for a central-leader tree. (Although they would be good for Spanish bush or KGB, as long as they have low-enough buds.) Bud removal is probably the most promising method of getting good branching on these whips or 'honkers.' (Video and video.)

It's amazing how different nursery trees can be from different sources -- a bit of a management challenge at times? JC

Friday, February 11, 2011

New website – – focuses on the Tall-Spindle apple production system

The Tall-Spindle (TS) apple seems to have become the standard hi-density orchard production system in the Northeast. Promoted by Cornell’s Terence Robinson for several years now, the TS uses fully dwarfing rootstocks planted at 3-4 feet between trees and app. 12 feet between rows (~1,200 trees per acre) to achieve high early yields, high sustainable yields, reduced labor costs, and highest return on investment compared to apple orchards planted at lower or higher densities.

Although Robinson has been on the TS speaking circuit for several years now, and co-authored several publications on the TS apple production system, there is a new website – (Fig. 1.)– with links to other websites, publications, and videos on how to do the TS. is broken down into Publications, Presentations, and Video with links to the best TS resources on the web. For example, under Publications, there is a link to ‘The Tall-Spindle Apple Production System’ by T. Robinson in the New York Fruit Quarterly. Presentations include ‘Different Approaches to Tall-Spindle Establishment in Apple’ by R. Perry, and ‘The Tall-Spindle: critical steps to Suceess’ by J. Clements. Videos show ‘4 Rules for Pruning Tall Spindle Apple’ and ‘Pruning the Tall-Spindle from a Platform’ among others. New content and links will be added as they are published. Website visitors are encouraged to submit or identify new content for publication on is the work of me and is hosted by the UMass Fruit Advisor ( I bring 10 years of experience to beginning with a 2001 visit to Italy where the Tall-Spindle apple is grown in quantity, visits to other progressive apple growing regions such in Europe and North America, studying Terence Robinson’s teaching, and my own experience growing Tall-Spindle apples at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard and cooperating apple growers throughout Massachusetts.