Good Fruit Grower

October 2015

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26 OCTOBER 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER G rafting over an existing orchard is a good way to establish a Honeycrisp orchard, Jason Matson believes, because it overcomes the typical problem of weak tree growth in the early years. Honeycrisp trees are not very vigorous and tend to stop growing when they start to fruit. "I've probably seen one block of Honeycrisp planted from trees that's filled its space," Matson told members of the International Fruit Tree Association, who visited his orchard at Selah, Washington, during their summer tour this year. "I'm not aware of any others." Tom Auvil, research horticulturist with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, argued that there have been a few Honeycrisp blocks that filled their space but agreed that many struggle. Matson, who manages Matson Fruit Company's orchards, grafted over a mature block of Jonagold on Malling 26 rootstock to Honeycrisp in 2010. The trees are spaced 5 feet apart with 16 feet between rows. Each trunk had several grafts. The four most uniformly growing grwafts on each tree were kept as leaders and trained to a V-trellis, with two leaders per side spaced about 2.5 feet apart down the row. For the first few years, as the grafted leaders grew up, anything that wasn't structure wood was cut off in an effort to remove flowering sites, and all blossoms were thinned off. Matson fertilized the trees twice a week to encourage them to fill their space. Two years ago, when the canopy was almost fully developed and he wanted to begin crop- ping the trees, he applied only one shot of fertilizer in the winter. Last year, he applied none. Last year, the block produced 82 bins per acre, but the fruit was not of the quality he would like because of the high vigor of the trees, and the cullage rate was high. "We try to limit the number of fruit we have until we get 75 percent of the canopy filled," Matson said. "Now we're there, our problem is going to be how do you slam the brakes on these things and take them from vegetative and lousy fruit to reproductive with nice fruit." The block has a good yield potential, he pointed out. He estimated this year's potential crop at 150 to 170 bins per acre. The blossoms were only lightly hand thinned in order to divert as much of the trees' energy as possible into growing fruit rather than wood. He intended to thin the crop down to 100 to 110 bins per acre. Matson also showed the IFTA tour group a block of Honeycrisp on M.9 Nic 29 rootstocks he had planted as trees in 2008 and trained as single leaders on a vertical trellis. The block had not been what he hoped it would be. "The trees runted out too early," he said. "We let them flower too early on, and just kept too much of the wrong kind of wood. The block grew really well for two years, and in the third year, it grew OK for a month and then it just stopped growing, despite all the fertilizer we put on it and fertilizer in subsequent years. We could never get it growing again." Karen Lewis, Washington State University extension specialist, said many Honeycrisp blocks planted in Washington in the 2008-2010 time frame look similar. Growers overcropped them at the expense of tree growth because they were anxious to get into production and have fruit to sell. Matson said the majority of Honeycrisp blocks planted around 2008 might not even look that good. Grow the tree before CROPPING IFTA Washington State study tour Honeycrisp trees will stop growing as soon as they fruit. by Geraldine Warner "We try to limit the number of fruit we have until we get 75 percent of the canopy filled." —Jason Matson Dolco Packaging New Premium Pear Tray Now available in: Euro Tray Pack Sizes ET 18, 21, 24, 27, 30 • Premium protection for the pears. • Enhances presentation of the fruit. • Packs faster than existing Euro's, by eliminating the use of individual wraps. • Eliminates use of layer pads. Also available: Premium Apple Trays with • Patented design with built-in channels to allow moisture to run off in hot/humid climates. • Available in full line of apple tray sizes (48's through 150's). Dolco manufactures foam packaging and containers in a wide variety of shapes sizes and strength. Contact your DOLCO PACKAGING OR HR SPINNER CORP. Sales Representative for more details. 800•613•8415 or 509•661•3176 1121 South Columbia Street - Wenatchee, WA 98801

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