Good Fruit Grower

April 1

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A desire to crop Honeycrisp trees early in order to profit from high fruit prices can backfire on growers, a horticulturist warned during a panel discussion at the Washington State University Honeycrisp Fruit School last December. Dr. Terence Robinson, horticulturist with Cornell University, New York, said Honeycrisp trees grow much, much less than other varieties in the first and second years, regardless of management strategies, such as early planting, intensive fertigation, or other efforts to push tree growth. The trees will then fail to fill the canopy, and production will be limited. "We can never get Honeycrisp to the same height and same canopy fill as we can with other varieties," said Robinson, who took part in a panel discussion with Mike Robin- son, a grower in Washington's Columbia Basin, and Bruce Allen, president of Columbia Reach Pack in Yakima, Washington. Tom Auvil, research horticulturist with the Wash- ington Tree Fruit Research Commission, was moderator. At the end of the first year, a Honeycrisp tree has less total shoot length than other varieties, but it sets up with too many spurs in the second year, Terence explained. If a tree on Malling 9, Budagovsky 9, or other precocious rootstock, is allowed to follow its natural course, it will produce too many fruit and stop growing. Terence said he would like to figure out how growers could harvest some apples in the second leaf while still allowing the tree to grow. In Washington State, Honeycrisp apples have been selling for more than $50 a box. "Every grower who plants Honeycrisp fears that in five years the price will be driven down," Terence said. "So, therefore, they want to get as much out of it as they can, and that greed to get apples in the second leaf over- whelms us. Then the question is, what do we give up when we do that?" If a tree is growing too vigorously, there are lots of things a grower can do to slow it down, but if it's stopped growing, the options are limited, he said. Mike Robinson said he's never seen a Honeycrisp tree start growing again once it's stopped. Allen said he defruits Honeycrisp trees for the first three years. "Even just a few apples will just shut the trees down before you get a full canopy height-wise." Nutrition Terence said fertilizing to push the trees to grow in the first and second years is critical with Honeycrisp. But that has a down side. If the trees are growing vigorously, the first crop will be poor quality and there could be prob- lems with bitter pit because of a low calcium-to-nitrogen ratio. "My preference is to start with a big tree and push it in year one but start to back down in year two so I can crop it heavily in the third year without having poor quality," he said, noting that the first crop of fruit might not have the best storability, so it should be sold immediately. Allen said his standard procedure for establishing a Honeycrisp block is to deep rip the ground and fumigate it, if it is a replant site. If it's been out of production, he likes to grow a green manure crop the year before plant- ing. He incorporates compost into the soil before plant- ing, aiming to apply 75 to 100 pounds of nitrogen. After planting, he fertigates through the drip system almost daily, applying a fair amount of phosphorus for the first two weeks and then switching to only nitrogen. He 50 APRIL 1, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER "It's AMAZING, this really works! The HydroFLOW device has already returned a significant savings in maintenance costs and down time." STEVE HESTER BAKER PRODUCE; BUENA, WA HydroFLOW Water Conditioners, powered by the patented Hydropath Technology Main Benefits • Prevents new limescale accumulation • Dissolves and removes existing limescale • Kills bacteria and algae • Boosts filtration efficiency • Inhibits corrosion Environmental and Financial Benefits • Reduces the use of electricity and/or fuel • Increases the efficiency of water heating appliances and machinery • Eliminates or decreases chemical use • Decreases the need for chemical safety precautions, storage and disposal • Average one to two years return of investment • Provides 24-hour protection For more information contact Randy Gidge: 509 424-1755 509 248-4600 CELL OFFICE • COOLING TOWERS • BOILERS • HEAT EXCHANGERS • PACKING LINES • IS PROUD TO PRESENT: The Hydropath signal causes dissolved mineral ions to form clusters which do not attach as hard scale to surfaces when supersaturation occurs. Grow it, THEN crop it Although growers want to reap early returns from their Honeycrisp plantings, they need to let the trees grow first. by Geraldine Warner Mike Robinson grows Honeycrisp in a warm climate near Othello, Washington.

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