New York Apple Production Systems Featured on the International Fruit Tree Association 2016 Study Tour
New York State hosted the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) Regional Study Tour. Many new technologies were demonstrated and discussed but this was also an opportunity to see growers put state of the art production systems into practice. The benefit to attending the tour in New York is that you are seeing these orchard systems in a climate similar to Ontario. Systems featured on this tour included fruiting walls and tipped-tall spindle.
There were two spots on the tour where growers converted their existing system into fruiting walls because of improved light exposure and increased mechanization. Light exposure in a fruiting wall system is more uniform throughout the canopy and will result in higher yields of high quality fruit. The fruiting wall would allow for more mechanization through pruning, ease of use with a platform, blossom thinning and potentially, in the future, robotic harvesting.
At Sandy Knoll Farm, they had fruiting walls which were originally planted and trained as a tall spindle (Figure 1). The process to convert into a fruiting wall took one season. The conversion first began with dormant pruning performed the same as in previous years. A hedger was used to form a "box" 18-20 inches away from the trunk. The shoots that were grown from this box were hedged at 24-25" from the trunk in late July/ early August (Figure 2).
Figure 1. Fruiting wall system, originally trained as a tall spindle.
Figure 2. Diagram of the hedging cuts need to convert a tall spindle orchard (3-D) into a fruiting wall (2-D) (Figure from Cornell Cooperative Extension handout at the IFTA Study Tour)
Lamont Fruit Farm converted their super spindle system into a fruiting wall (Figure 3) by dormant pruning 5-6 renewal cuts per tree. At the end of the dormant season or right before bloom, a hedger was used to form the trees into a "box", 12" from the trunk. Forming the "box" early in the season reduces the amount of fruit being cut off during summer hedging that was done 13-14" away from the trunk.
Figure 3. Super spindle system converted into a fruiting wall
At Wafler Farms, where the Huron Fruit Systems picking platform (demonstrated at 2015 OAG Summer Tour in Essex) was designed, they have adjusted their training system and trellis design to better fit the use of platforms (Figure 4). They have their trellises tipped approximately 15° to complement the platform better, so that pickers can access the canopy and apples easier. Rather than have the workers on the platform lean out to prune, hand thin and harvest and having to stand leaning forward all day, the trees "lean in" towards the workers on the platform. The angle isn't as severe as a V-trellis but there still are advantages of more sun interception, just not as much as the V-trellis. They space the rows at 7 feet where the trees are angled away from each other and 13 feet where the trees were angled into each other.
Figure 4. Huron Fruit Systems picking platform at Wafler Farms
Figure 5. Tipped-tall spindle system at Wafler Farms. Rows are tipped so that workers don't have to lean out of the platform to reach the canopy.
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