Good Fruit Grower

January 2016

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20 JANUARY 1, 2016 GOOD FRUIT GROWER & T o reach grower Del Feigal's office, you travel on Interstate 90 until you reach the ham- let of Vantage, then head south down the Columbia River's west bank until the county road ends. There you'll find one of the most interesting minds in the business, a Washington grower who is relentless about developing ideas to grow great fruit efficiently. Feigal, 48, president of orchard management at Auvil Fruit Company, was selected to receive the 2015 Silver Apple Award, delivered last month at the Annual Meeting of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. For a man whose formal horticulture training con- sisted of two years at Wenatchee Valley College, Feigal has earned a considerable reputation as an orchard- ist whose experiments have led to growing practices adopted by others. "Del has been very innovative in his pruning and crop- ping systems and in irrigation," said Mike Robinson, gen- eral manager of Double Diamond Fruit in Quincy. "He's continued the Auvil Company tradition of sharing what they know. I can drive around the industry and see bits and pieces and complete copies of what he does." Last year's Good Fruit Grower magazine Growers of the Year, Mike and Craig O'Brien, cited Feigal as one of their resources. Feigal appeared in this magazine in 2006 in an article on orchards of the future that dealt with his work to grow a consistent fruiting wall. He planted apple trees 20 to 22 inches apart, trained to a modified Tatura trellis with 13 feet between rows and 3 to 4 feet between the tops of the canopies. His trellis was built with six to eight wires, about 18 inches apart, with the top wire at 12 feet high. He trained one limb to each wire on either side of the tree trunk to create a consistent fruiting surface, tree to tree and row to row. His goal was 40 bins in the third leaf, and full production of 80 bins per acre from the fourth leaf onward. Feigal wanted to build the canopy as fast as possible with high-quality fruiting wood, so that the main focus would be on using horticultural tools to grow high-qual- ity fruit, rather than on growing vegetative wood and trying to get the trees to fill the space. This shows an approach that others have followed. "He knows what he wants to grow per acre, how many apples," Robinson said. "He knows the maximum his trees will grow, and he translates that into how many 2015 Silver Apple Award Del Feigal, president of orchard management for Auvil Fruit Company, is the winner Del Feigal's talents in the orchard are a valuable resource for other growers. by O. Casey Corr photos by TJ Mullinax Centerpiece INNOVATION Feigal is experimenting with on-demand propane water heaters to warm a 6-acre block of trees in late winter at Auvil Fruit Company near Vantage. The heaters supply hot water to underground pipes beneath the apple trees in the distance.

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