Good Fruit Grower

April 1

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18 APRIL 1, 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER T he need to carefully manage irrigation of Honeycrisp apples is one of the things Jim Divis has learned after growing the fickle variety for more than a decade. Divis, of Brewster, Washington, has 50 acres of Honeycrisp out of 180 acres of tree fruit. He is a grower as well as general manager of packer-shipper Honey Bear Tree Fruit Company that's affil- iated with Honeybear Brands, a vertically integrated tree fruit company with orchards in the Midwest, Washington, and Southern Hemisphere. "I thought I had this crazy variety figured out," he said. "But this variety is pretty humbling. I've spent the last two years trying to repeat earlier quality and yield performances, and I can't." Divis shared what he's learned about the challenging variety during an educational session on Honeycrisp pro- duction, harvest, and storage coordinated by Washington State University Extension and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. Although Divis has picked 100 bins per acre from orchards with medium density (600 to 700 trees per acre) grafted on vigorous rootstocks, he admits that such feats are hard to repeat. His orchard is trained to the steep leader and spacing is 5 feet between trees and 13.5 feet between rows. "Production of 70 to 80 bins is repeatable, but I'm having a hard time repeating 100 bin levels," he said. One thing he has learned is that Honeycrisp dislikes excessive water and excessive heat. Brewster, located in north central Washington, is a cooler location than some in eastern Washington, but apples there still need overhead cooling and protection from sunburn. Divis uses fogger emitters for his overhead cooling, and he applies irrigation based on soil moisture measurements. "We switched to fog- ger overhead cooling so that we aren't dousing the trees with excess water," he said. He's also integrated his soil and nutrient program with irrigation management to ensure nutrients aren't being lost by soil Irrigation management key to HONEYCRISP Irrigation GERALDINE WARNER/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Tom Auvil, left, listens as Jim Divis, right, discusses Honeycrisp challenges during a field tour. Honeycrisp trees don't like excessive water, says veteran Washington tree fruit grower. by Melissa Hansen

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