Good Fruit Grower

December 2012

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Orchard Economics High-density cherry orchard ECONOMICS OSU extension horticulturist for Wasco County. Long took part in a recent OSU study updating the economics of establishing and producing high-density cherry orchard systems. "I've seen a lot of older orchards that are only averaging two to three tons per acre," he P Growers must also consider the increased management needed to establish high-density orchards. by Melissa Hansen said. "A lot of growers have no idea what their average yield is for each block. When you're getting those kind of low yields, I don't see how people can make a go of things." With low tonnage, growers must receive very good prices year in and year out, Long said. "But with cherries, it's a given you're not going to do that every year." To help growers increase productivity, OSU and Wash- ington State University horticulturists have been studying new high-density training systems like the KGB (Kym Green Bush), a system named after its Australian devel- oper, and the UFO (Upright Fruiting Offshoots), devel- oped by WSU's Dr. Matt Whiting. Both training systems are pedestrian-style orchards that allow for early high yields, but also high sustained yields because of increased light interception, Long said. The UFO is a two-dimensional system, with rows closer together than standard density and upright shoots that result in a wall of cherries. The KGB, a variation of the Spanish bush system, also has tight rows. Both increase the amount of light interception. Also, both systems use dwarfing rootstocks to bring precocity to the orchard, he said, adding that growers can achieve seven tons per acre in the fifth leaf. High-density considerations Long outlined some considerations of high-density orchard systems compared to standard density orchards: Extra cost for dwarfing rootstocks. The Gisela dwarfing rootstocks cost about $3 more per tree than the standard Mazzard rootstock. Grow- ers concerned about tree costs should consider using Krymsk 5 or 6 or Maxma 14, which cost less than Gisela rootstocks. Improved exposure to sprays. Better spray penetration into the smaller tree canopies of high-density systems have the potential to improve pest and disease control. Reduced pruning costs. Studies conducted by Long show reduced pruning costs in the KGB and UFO systems compared to standard sys- tems, even though there are more trees per acre. This is because the tech- niques are simplified and every step uniform, which changes pruning from an art to a faster, repeatable process. Reduced harvest labor costs. Higher density systems are picker friendly, with reduced or minimal need for ladders. In studies comparing harvest costs of high-density and standard systems, Long has found that a worker averages about 100 pounds of fruit per hour picking from trees on Mazzard rootstocks. In a pedestrian, high-density system without ladders, productivity goes up to 171 pounds per hour. Preferred by workers. Cherry pickers in The Dalles, Oregon, find the work easier in high-density orchards than in standard orchards and love 20 DECEMBER 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Lynn Long says growers worried about oversetting in trees on dwarfing rootstocks should consider Krymsk rootstocks because they are not as productive as Gisela. lanting a high-density cherry orchard, with its earlier production and potential for higher yields at maturity, is one of the options that growers should consider when thinking about replacing aging, less productive cherry blocks, according to an Oregon State University extension educator. With today's tight profit margins, profitability is tied to productivity, says Lynn Long, PHOTO BY GERALDINE WARNER

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