Good Fruit Grower

May 1

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12 MAY 1, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Fruit growers have gotten much better at it during the last 40 years. by Richard Lehnert W hen Dr. John Palmer began his career at East Malling in 1968, it was the beginning of a time of great change within the global fruit-growing community. "Widespread innovation in planting systems was just beginning to occur. It was the com- ing of age of the M.9 rootstock for apples and the rapid introduction of new cultivars," Palmer recalled. And that was fortunate for him, he said, because it meant there was a lot of research to be done. Early on, Palmer became interested in the basic pro- cesses by which trees capture light and what they then do with it, whether making roots, shoots, or fruit. "Use the light you have to your best advantage," he advised growers during the Cornell University In-Depth Fruit School in Geneva, New York, early this spring. "It's free and it drives your production." Centuries ago, growers learned that shading inside a tree and from neighboring trees affected fruit size, color, and flavor, he said. "The 1970s and 1980s was a period of quantifying what had been visually noted many years before," he said. "The quantification looked at the two main areas— light interception and light distribution—and how they influenced yield and fruit quality." Palmer developed computer models to examine the effect of changing tree height, shape, row orienta- tion, and latitude on light interception. A shaded leaf contributes little. His early work showed there was a direct linear relationship between light interception and fruit yield. "High yields cannot be achieved without high light interception," he said. "It sets the upper limit for produc- tion. It can be increased by closer plantings, taller trees, and closer row spacings. "But orchards are more than light-harvesting systems. The light distribution without our trees has a major influ- ence on the quantity and quality of the fruit we produce." Capturing light Palmer has said that if apple growers could capture all the sunlight energy that falls on orchards, they could produce more than 20,000 bushels per acre each year, instead of about 700. Less than 1 percent of the sun's visible light energy striking an orchard is captured in fruit. Manni-Plex ® Advanced Foliar Nutrition Maximize crop genetic potential with MANNI-PLEX ® - the high performance foliar that gets micro- nutrients into plants at lighting speed. MANNI-PLEX greatly increases the absorption rate and movement of nutrients through the leaf into internal plant structure and tissue. Helping correct deficiencies quickly and maximize yield potential. ■ Get more from every acre ■ Get better color, quality and more uniform size ■ Excellent on grapes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, small grains ■ Compatible with most insecticides, fungicides and PGR's ■ Available in 23 formulations To locate a BRANDT representative or dealer near you, call 559 499 2100 or email Proud Sponsor of the NASCAR #51 Ag Car Brandt Consolidated Inc. 3654 South Willow Avenue Fresno, California 93725 USA 559 499 2100 Harvesting THE LIGHT DEAN of physiologists D r. John W. Palmer was born in Bristol in the United Kingdom. He began work at the East Malling Research Station in 1968 and earned his doctorate at Nottingham University in 1976. From the beginning, he studied the effects of shade on apple yield and quality, measuring light interception and developing computer models to predict light interception and distribution. While at East Malling, he was a coordinator of the first European planting systems trial. In 1991, he moved to New Zealand. He went from the cool, cloudy climate of England's 51 degrees north latitude to the warm sunshine of New Zealand's 41 degrees south. At the Plant and Food Research Institute's Motueka Research Center, he has pursued interests in planting systems for apples and rootstocks for apples and pears. "He is one of few scientists to measure total dry matter production and partitioning in apple orchards," said Cornell University pomologist Dr. Terence Robinson. He called Palmer "the dean of tree fruit physiologists." Palmer has also studied fruit dry matter concentration as related to fruit quality and the effects of temperature on the expression of genes associated with fruit color. He officially retired in 2013, but continues as a Fellow of Plant and Food Research. In March, he received the Outstanding Research Career Award from the Environmental Physiology of Fruit Crops Working Group. "I have been privileged to be a bench and field scientist throughout my career and have remained within the pipfruit physiology discipline," he said, adding proudly, "I have never been a manager." —R. Lehnert John Palmer has studied the basic processes by which trees capture light. PHOTO BY RICHARD LEHNERT Art to Science 5

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