Good Fruit Grower

December 2012

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FIGURE 1 picking the smaller trees. Long predicts that during labor shortages, growers with standard density orchards will have greater difficulty securing pickers, while those with high-density orchards will have "pickers knocking on their door." Orchard management. The KGB is extremely simple to manage and establish. In Spain, pruning the Spanish bush is called "goat pruning" because even a goat could prune it, he said. The UFO, once established, is also very simple to maintain, although the first few years of training and establishment are critical. "But once it's established, it's a very easy system to maintain." Better quality fruit? Long has no data to back this, but has heard from field representatives that fruit quality is better on new high-density systems than from old, standard-density trees. "Especially if fruit experienced rain or some other stress or problem near or during harvest, fruit from young trees seem to be coming into the packing house in much better condition than fruit from older trees, and I've heard this from many sources for multiple years," Long said. Irrigation.Trees on Gisela rootstocks are less forgiving of mistakes made with irrigation than trees on Mazzard. He noted that most growers are familiar with how to irri- gate Mazzard trees but may be unaware of the nuances with Gisela. Tried and true Is there a compelling reason to stay with the standard- density systems? Growers feel more confident with the old, standard- density systems on Mazzard rootstocks, Long said. "Some believe managing a high-density system on semidwarf- ing rootstock of Gisela 6 or 12 is more difficult because of the potential for oversetting. I understand that." To avoid oversetting, he suggests staying away from vigorous rootstock/scion combinations like Gisela 6 and Sweetheart. Nonetheless, he's been able to grow the G.6/Sweetheart combination under several high-density systems and maintain size in all seven years of the orchards' productive life by using an expert pruning crew. "But that's why I like Krymsk rootstocks. They're not quite as productive as G.6 or 12 and may be a good option for growers not comfortable with G.6," he said. When to replant? Updated OSU economic studies show that most grow- ers can't afford to keep farming unproductive blocks. At four tons per acre—a level that Long believes many old blocks are below—a standard-density block must bring 85 cents per pound to clear about $300 per acre or 95 cents per pound to make a little more than $1,000 per acre. "With midseason Bings, where most of The Dalles and many Washington growers fit, how often do you get 95 cents a pound?" he mused. "You need to know what you're averaging in yield and price and what's going on in every block. And really pay attention to your older blocks." As blocks get older, growers must think about options for replanting. "If you're ready to take that leap from a standard-density to high-density orchard, I'd suggest going with Krymsk instead of Gisela as a rootstock because of Gisela's productivity concerns. Krymsk gives Machinery costs (13%) Fertilizer, chemicals (13%) Costs include the first six years of establishment. SOURCE: Oregon State University High-density cash costs Cash costs for establishing a high-density cherry orchard. Misc. and overhead (3%) Field preparation (3%) Insurance and taxes (3%) Operating interest (1%) Other (8%) Irrigation (4%) Hired labor (40%) Trees (12%) FIGURE 2 High-density total costs Total costs for establishing a high-density cherry orchard. Land charges (6%) Insurance and taxes (2%) Misc. and overhead (2%) Trees (8%) Hired labor (29%) Other (11%) Interest (18%) Machinery costs (15%) Costs include the first six years of establishment. SOURCE: Oregon State University growers opportunity to try a productive semidwarfing rootstock with one that's not as productive as Gisela." Greater risks High-density systems offer returns earlier in the life of the orchard and have potential for higher annual yields. They are easier to maintain and faster to harvest, but the high-density systems require significant up-front costs and come with greater management risks. According to the OSU economic study, it can take up to year eight in a high-density system before all of the previous years' production costs are paid. The Dalles cherry grower Mike Omeg cautions growers to fully consider and explore all the factors involved with high-density orchards before going that route. "I would not plant high-density unless it fits your management style," he said. "There's zero room for error, and you have to put too much money out there if you're not prepared for the increased management." High-density systems on dwarfing rootstocks are less forgiving than standard orchards, the OSU study underlines. "Improper management can mean small, poor quality fruit, and poor pruning can lead to excessive shading and spur death, and lack of vigor can increase pest and dis- ease attacks. For these reasons, it is important that grow- ers properly evaluate the scion/rootstock choices in relationship to the proposed orchard site, while critically assessing their own management skills before deciding to plant a high-density orchard," the report said. • 22 DECEMBER 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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