Good Fruit Grower

October 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 47

24 OCTOBER 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER M anaging the crop load on Honeycrisp requires a precise and season-long effort of counting and thinning, growers say. "We've gone from being eyeball farm- ers, and we now are trying to estimate our canopy volume per acre," Bruce Allen, a large and long-time Honeycrisp grower, told members of the International Fruit Tree Association during their summer tour in Washington State. "We compute how many linear feet of fruiting wood that is. We do a bud count in late fall and early winter and do a bud analysis under a microscope to figure out the percentage that are fruit buds," he said. Because Honeycrisp produces large fruit, it's possible to produce 80 to 100 bins per acre if there's a full canopy, he said. He works back from the target yield to calculate the number of fruit needed per linear foot of branch and then has workers try to prune the trees to leave 150 to 200 percent of that number. The crop is then adjusted before bloom by removing whole clusters. "Taking whole clusters off is a very effective—and expensive—way of maximizing the potential for consistent return bloom," Allen said. Leaving the remaining fruit in clusters for part of the season helps prevent the fruit from growing too big. That's followed by a "very modest" chemical bloom thinning program using fish oil and lime sulfur to try to reduce the clusters to singles, doubles, or triples, with follow-up thinning by hand. If there's still excess fruit on the tree, workers thin again, removing the largest fruit. "We're trying to get away from growing 56s and 48s," Allen said. Growers will need to figure out the right number of target fruit per foot for their particular orchard. "But if you're trying to grow five to six fruit per linear foot, that's too many," he said. "You can't do it. You'd have biennial bearing and inferior eating quality." With most varieties—particularly Honeycrisp—fruit on overcropped trees won't color and won't taste good, he said. An exception is Gala, which can yield 100 bins per acre and still have acceptable internal quality. "We have to figure out how to deliver good tasting fruit and still have yields in the 80, 90, 100 bins per acre range," Allen said. Stemilt At Saddle Mountain West Orchard in Othello, which is operated by Stemilt Ag Services, orchard manager Juan Cuevas explained the company's strategy to avoid bien- nial bearing and manage fruit size. Buds are examined in winter under a microscope. Fruit buds are counted in order to compile the first crop load estimate and develop the pruning strategy. Pre-bloom, clusters are counted and half of them Honeycrisp THINNING IFTA Washington State study tour Honeycrisp's tendencies to produce large fruit and bear biennially complicate crop load management. by Geraldine Warner takes all season "We do bud counting, cluster counting, fruit counting—we're always working on counts to manage crop load, from pruning all the way through." —Dale Goldy

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - October 2015