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