Monday, October 8, 2012

Fruiting Wall Apple

Today I picked 30 Gibson Golden Delicious trees planted in 2002 on B.9 rootstock spaced 2 ft. apart. (Essentially a super-spindle.) Last year, I divided those trees into two blocks of 15 each, and began the Fruiting Wall Apple (FWA) pruning regimen beginning with a dormant hedging followed by a Summer Solstice Hedging (SSH) on one block, while I pruned the other 15 trees to a hybrid tall-spindle/super-spindle pruning. This year, I did one SSH in late June on the FWA, and a more traditional dormant pruning on the Tall Spindle Apple (TSA).

The fruit yield I picked today was almost even between the two systems (FWA vs. Tall Spindle Apple), app. 10.5 bushels of nice quality Golden's came out of each block of 15 trees. (Call it a 20 bushel bin out of all 30 trees.) If I extrapolate the yield at the current spacing, which is 2 ft. between trees X 12 ft. between rows, that is 24 square feet per tree times 30 trees equals 720 square feet of orchard equals 20 bushels. One acre (43,560 sq. ft.) divided by 720 sq. ft. equals app. 1/60 of an acre. Thus, 60 X 20 bushels equals an app. equivalent yield of 1,200 bushels per acre. Not bad. If I could do it on a whole acre... :-)

But is that really fair to the FWA? Well, tree height was limited there to about 10 ft. while the TSA was 12-13 ft. Thus TSA rows would need to be 12 ft. apart as above to maintain th 1:1 tree height/row height ratio recommended. But the FWA could be planted 10 ft. between rows therefore using only 20 sq. ft. per tree, and assuming the same yield per tree could be achieved, then that maths out to app. 1,450 bushels per acre. No hand pruning. And I picked the whole thing with only the assistance of a 2 ft. step-stool.

Is that the whole story? Well, see some of my other videos on this topic:

Can I do it again next year? We'll see. What do you think?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Waxing poetic about Liberty...

Right. I am no poet! But I have recently come to re-appreciate some of the attributes of Liberty. A reminder it is scab-resistant (but not wholly disease-resistant). The local-favorite apple Macoun is one of it's parents. It is an extremely consistent cropper, often to the detriment of fruit size, but that can be managed. Picked fully red and ripe, but before it has started to go south (which happens fast), it has a flavor reminiscent of the best apple cider you ever had. It is crisp (for awhile), the flesh is clean white and mostly tart but with some sweetness. Here are the stats on some Liberty I recently picked at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, MA:

date Cultivar pre-harvest drop color % red fruit
firmness lbs soluble solids starch index fruit picture
9/24/2012 Liberty some+ 90 3.0 17 11.8 3.5

Now, Liberty has been around for awhile so why hasn't it exactly caught on? Especially given it's scab-resistance, hence reducing (but not eliminating!) the need for fungicide sprays. (Plum curculio love it, it needs an aggressive insecticide program.) For one, it does not last long when picked, and if left too long on the tree, it gets slightly greasy and develops an off-favor IMHO. Hence, it does not have any storage legs. BUT, a colleague of mine at Rutgers insists these negative traits can be offset with the judicious use of ReTain. (As much as I hate it when he is right, I suspect he is onto something here.) So I am not sure we have given it enough attention as to how to manage it for best and sustainable fruit quality.

After I picked the above Liberty apples, I was so full of myself about Liberty I decided to do a rather unscientific but nonetheless (I think) worthwhile taste test of Liberty with our retail customers at the UMass Orchard. A box each of Liberty and Macoun were placed on a table in the retail sales area. Customers were simply asked "which apple do you like better, x or y" after giving them the opportunity to sample each fruit.

Well, the results were a little disappointing to me (although I will have to admit, the Macoun tasted pretty good): 1.5 to 1 in favor of Macoun (i.e., Macoun was preferred 1.5 times over Liberty). BUT, alas, the Macoun were treated with ReTain! (Liberty were not.) I guess that is not really a fair comparison???

Saturday, August 25, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 2 afternoon

After a lunch with a view (why didn't I take any pictures?) at Verger Bel Horizon (and some more cider!), Friday afternoon first stop was to study the "bagpipe" sprayer at Fruiteraie des Gadbois in Rougemont. This air-assist sprayer sprays three rows at a time and was the subject of much consternation, but on flat land it looks like it works. At Gadbois we also saw dwarf apple trees of Sunrise/Ottawa 8, and in their packing house, an ice-based hydro-cooler and air-locked (for dubiously easier access?) CA rooms. Of note is the fact most all their fruit is marketed at a large, year-around public market in Drummondville.
The "bagpipe" sprayer at Fruiteraie des Gadbois.
Click here for full size image.
A Sunrise/Ottawa 8 apple orchard at Fruiteraie des Gadbois, with brother (Vincent or Benoit?) left
and crop advisor (name?) right. Click here for full size image.
At Verger Pomme Atout, also in Rougemont, Louis-Raphael showed us their extensive line of equipment, including the Darwin string thinner pictured below. They have been using it to thin apple trees at about 10% bloom, and so far, no problem with fireblight, although they apply streptomycin when conditions dictate. A "fruiting wall" orchard of McIntosh and Empire planted about 25 years ago was also visited, where workers were using a platform to summer prune.
At Verger Pomme Atout the Darwin string thinner is used for thinning apple blossoms.
Click here for full size image.
And a mechanical platform is used to maintain a 25-year old "fruiting wall" orchard.
Click here for full size image.
Last orchard of the day and tour was Vergers Paul Jodoin, Inc. of Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Rouville. Now run by three brothers, the nearly 600 acre orchard includes their own CA storage, computer-controlled packing line, and processing plant for juice and other products. Pictured below is brother Francois, showing us a five acre, 2007 planting of Cortland, Spartan, Empire, McIntosh, and Honeycrisp on O.3, B.9., and M.26 rootstocks. This somewhat sandy, droughty orchard in Rougemont lacked vigor, perhaps also an indication of the short growing season and cold winters Quebec growers face?
Francois Jodoin explains his horticultural philosophy at their Petit Caroline orchard in Rougemont.
Click here for full size image.
At the end of the day, back at Vergers Denis Charbonneau (where we started the day with breakfast), we had a classic Sugar Shack Meal of ham, maple sausage, baked omelette, baked beans, apple pork pie, boiled potatoes, meayball stew, cole slaw, pickles, pea soup, and various maple desserts. Although delicious, I have to warn you -- drinking a few beers before the meal does NOT go "tré bien" with the above entré! Nevertheless, a good time was had by all I am sure...
Paul Yelle, Mo Tougas, and Bill Stevenson "ham" it up at the Sugar Shack Meal.
Paul and Bill were prime organizers of the IFTA 2012 Quebec Study Tour.

Monday, August 20, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 2 morning

July 27, 2012 - day 2 of the IFTA 2012 Quebec Study Tour began in the Vergers (Orchard) Denis Charbonneau in Mont-Saint-Gregoire, well, with breakfast in their crepe restaurant! (Choice of fruit crepes or a farmers breakfast -- eggs and meat.) Vergers DC is a large (125 acres) orchard-sugarbush-pumpkin patch that sells mostly direct market with close to 200,000 visitors per year. They do pick-your-own off 50,000 apple trees and have a variety of agri-toursim activities including a mini-farm, playground, and haunted house. They also have a Cidrerie, and despite the early hour, we had to sample some of their fine hard cider. Above left is a picture of the orchard and Mont-Saint Gregoire.

Moving on to two orchards with one stop in Saint-Paul-d'Abbotsford, we visited Thomson Orchards and Verger R.C. Guertin. First, at Guertin we looked at young plantings of Gala with fertigation producing high early yields. With 50 acres of these new plantings, Guertin orchard has invested in a mechanical harvester to improve profitability. I should also mention Verger Guertin includes a growing winery, Les Artisans du Terroir, for which they grow their own grapes.

2nd leaf Gala with high yield at Verger R.C. Guertin. Click here for full size image.
Mechanical harvester at Verger R.C. Guertin.  Click here for full size image.
At Thomson Orchards, the discussion focused on Dwarf vs. Semi-Dwarf? Dean Thomson believes with new chemical tools such as Apogee, ReTain, and SmartFresh, medium-density plantings of traditional varieties such as Cortland are a better bet. And they are highly productive -- for 2012, Thomson Orchards expects to produce close to 300,000 bushels of apples off 380 acres or orchard in nine different sites. Owner Dean Thomson is also the mayor of nearby Saint-Paul-d'Abbotsford, and says modernization of communication by cell phone is the only way he can handle the logistics of it all!

Owner Dean Thomson explains his philosophy,  re. Dwarf vs. Semi-dwarf. Click here for full size image.
IFTA President Mo Tougas and Phyllis enjoy the Quebec scenery at Verger R.C.Guertin. Click here for full size image.

Friday, August 10, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1, Vergers Lussier and Stevenson

Last stops on Day 1 were the orchards of Gérard Lussier in Rockburn and Bill Stevenson in Franklin. At Lussiers, run by Gérard and Paul (pictured below with their friend Win Cowgill), we were warmly greeted by much of the family (including the women!) who were all clearly proud of their orchards! Also, at Lussiers, Nathalie Tanguay (left, with the Lussiers), the orchard's private pest management advisor, explained some of their pest management challenges. The Lussiers hopped on the Honeycrisp bandwagon 8 years ago, and are continuously planting and growing high-quality Honeycrisp to meet demand despite it's difficult horticultural requirements. Pictured far below is a 2012 planting of Honeycrisp with the characteristic telephone pole mega-support system often seen in Quebec. The Lussiers have also had to install deer fence to keep their valuable new plantings protected from unwanted 'pruning!'
Gérard and Paul Lussier with friend Win Cowgill (click here for large image)
Honeycrisp planted in 2012 at Lussiers (click here for large image)

Very last stop for IFTA 2012 Quebec Day 1 was Stevenson Orchards. Bill, recently retired IFTA Director and his Fred -- well, there is so much good to say about them! Including the fact that Bill was a principle instigator and oh-so helped organize this Tour. We enjoyed an explanation of their maple syrup making (they have 4,500 taps); their premium stem-clipped Honeycrisp growing; both retail and wholesale selling; UV-sanitized fresh cider making; and their membership in the SweeTango club. One thing you could definitely say about Stevenson Orchards, all was top-notch. Although not mentioned yet, the larger Quebec orchards such as Stevenson are starting to use platforms in their dwarf orchards to increase labor efficiency. Here we saw a brand new Orsi platform being demonstrated in a SweeTango orchard.

Orsi orchard platform in SweeTango block at Stevenson Orchards (click here for large image)

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1 cont. Cidrerie Du Minot

Although we had sampled some of Quebec's wonderful ciders during the pre-tour social on Wednesday evening, now we got a chance to visit one of Quebec's outstanding cider makers, Cidrerie Du Minot in Hemmingford. (We've been in Hemmingford for awhile now.) We sampled and bought (left) some of their gold medal winning ciders. The Demoy family, owners of Du Minot, in addition to the cider mill manage nearly 130 acres of orchard, the whole of which goes to cider production. Apples grown include McIntosh, Cortland, Lobo, Melba, Empire, Liberty, Trent, Geneva, and -- that favorite cider apple -- golden russet. The cider press at Du Minot is state-of-art and efficient at turning the dollar value up on apples that come out as juice and are fermented into cider.

Golden Russet apples are finicky to grow, but prized for making cider

Modern cider press at Cidrerie Du Minot (click here for large image)

IFTA 2012 Quebec -- more Day 1

Rounding out the morning of Day 1we stopped to see a new field being prepped for planting apple trees at D.M. Boileau Orchards, Inc., also in Havelock. One of several family members running the orchards and packing facility, Danny Boileau (left) told us how they want to plant 5,000 trees per year over the next five years, and with his agricultural/business education, realizes the importance of getting an intensive orchard off to a good start. Here, they are incorporating LOTS of manure and using green cover crops for good soil health and tilth before planting apples. But, growers are very conscious about phosphorous levels, in fact soil tests are mandatory and they are prohibited from applying too much P to protect water quality.

After lunch, we visited Tim Petch of Petch Orchards in Hemmingford. Tim's father, Bob Petch is fondly remembered as  IFTA Director from Quebec, and going back a long ways (1950's), Bob encouraged a shift to agri-tourism and Pick-Your-Own in the Hemmingford area. Tim (right) with his son Justin now orchard 85 acres, including this new planting of Kiku® (cv. 'Brak') Fuji (below). Tim is also experimenting with some Bi-axe trees to keep planting cost down while maintaining productivity. Once comprised primarily of McIntosh, the orchards are being replanted/expanded to include Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, and Fuji.

Click here for large image

Thursday, August 9, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1 cont.

After touring the Applesnax/Leahy Orchards processing plant -- they have a 70% market share in Canada for packaged applesauce, slices, and baby food, no pictures allowed -- we moved on to the M.J. Bourdeau Orchards in Havelock (about 35 miles southwest of Montreal, near the NY border), where Mario returned to the farm in 1990 which was then mostly standard and semi-dwarf apple trees. Now, with his son and wife, Mario farms 57 acres of apples in two location, and they have a large sugarbush. (A sugarbush are sugar maple trees tapped for sap to produce maple syrup.) We visited a 12 acre new dwarf planting, where standard trees were removed, and pearl millet was planted to help ameliorate replant disease. Above left, Paul Emile Yelle (our host and tour guide) discusses with Mario some of the finer points of training these Rogers McIntosh/B.9 to the Solaxe (below).
Click here for larger image

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1

Bonjour from Quebec, Canada. Well, a little apres the fact, so hello. But, I was on the IFTA Study Tour to the Province of Quebec, Canada on July 26-27, 2012. App. 180 of us (three busloads!) were treated to good French-Canadian hospitality, including lots of cider (yes, the alcoholic kind, vs. fresh or sweet cider), a classic maple sugar house supper, and much aménité. Beginning with this post, I will bring you image and brief commentaire from each visite with the Quebec producteur/verger (orchard). First stop, the IRDA Research Orchard in Saint-Bruno, just east of Montreal (skyline above left). I was anxious to see the overhead spray system developed by my colleague Vincent Philion (below left), who I know quite well from an annual pest management meeting in Vermont each fall. Philion explained the organic pest control strategy being deployed through the system, which included phopshite (or was it bicarbonate?) and sulfur (for scab control) and Surround (kaolin clay) for insect control. But he noted the inclusion of Surround resulted in poor scab control (below right), likely a by-product of interaction with the fungicides. Hmm...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Black cherry aphids

I let these black cherry aphids get a bit out of hand, but treated recently with Movento (Bayer). That should do an effective job of getting rid of them. Left uncontrolled, they will seriously contort and stunt growth of developing leaves/foliage. For more on black cherry aphid, see:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

BMSB or not?

While visiting an orchard in Eastern Massachusetts earlier this week, I came across this stink bug sitting on the tip of a peach shoot.
I quickly grabbed it because it looked (initially) a lot like a brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB)! Ugh! I was not sure, however, so I consulted Dean Polk of Rutgers who confirmed it is only a (native) brown stink bug. Good! (Well, they still can cause fruit injury, so good relative to the fact it is not a BMSB.) So, here is a pict of a side-by-side comparison -- you can see the similarity, but the BMSB has more distinct white bands on the antennae. Keep an eye out there for stink bugs so we know if we are seeing more BMSB or not?