2014 Winter Pruning Tour

Marc Arcuri of Miller Fall Protection demonstrates safety equipment at the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

Marc Arcuri of Miller Fall Protection demonstrates safety equipment at the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

The Lake Ontario Fruit Program Winter Pruning Tour visited three Wayne County New York fruit farms on February 20, 2014. Attendees learned about the benefits of orchard mechanization and proper pruning of high density plantings.

At Mark Hermenet’s Orchard at Williamson, NY, Mark has been planting new high density plantings and just recently invested in a new tractor-mounted, over-the- hood, expanding deck, two man orchard platform. Mark demonstrated the features of his new Orchard Platform. Discussion on orchard mechanization, proper pruning, limb renewal pruning, limb bending, and the correct identification of a floral bud versus a vegetative bud was led by Dr. Terence Robinson. Mark Arcuri of Miller Fall Protection Systems demonstrated the correct use of fall protection equipment.

Mark Hermenet demonstrates his new Orchard Platform at the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

Mark Hermenet demonstrates his new Orchard Platform at the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

At D&L Ventures LLC, Sodus, NY, Doug Fox shared his successes and challenges while pruning medium-high density orchards on drumlin slopes with a motorized platform. Last year Doug bought a tractor-mounted, out-front, elevating-tilting, two man Orchard Platform that has worked very well for his pruning crew.

At VanDeWalle Fruit Farms, Alton, NY, Scott VanDeWalle and invited growers Todd Furber and Eric Budinger shared their experiences with motorized platforms for pruning. Todd and Eric displayed a platform which they built which is pulled by a tractor. Scott displayed his 2012 tractor-mounted, over-the-hood, two man Orchard Platform (which does not have an expanding deck as Mark Hermenet’s 2014 unit) and his 2013 tractor-mounted, over-the-row, four man, self-guided orchard platform.

Marc Arcuri of Miller Fall Protection demonstrates safety equipment at the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

Marc Arcuri of Miller Fall Protection demonstrates safety equipment at the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

Discussion on orchard mechanization, the fruiting wall concept, proper pruning, and limb renewal pruning was led by Dr. Terence Robinson. A second demonstration of use of fall protection harnesses and demonstrations of electric pruning shears took place at this stop. Attendees were able to watch the over-the- row Orchard Platform in action and heard Scott Vandewalle report on the speed and savings this machine has brought to his pruning operations.

and Eric will have for display their platform pulled by a tractor and Scott will have his 2012 tractor-mounted, over-the-hood, two man orchard platform (it does not have an expanding deck as Mark Hermenet’s 2014 platform) and the 2013 tractor- mounted, over-the-row, four man orchard platform and self-guided. Discussion on orchard mechanization, the fruiting wall concept, proper pruning, limb renewal pruning, limb bending, and the correct identification of a floral bud versus a vegetative bud will be led by Dr. Terence Robinson. A second demonstration of use of fall protection harnesses and electric shears will also be demonstrated at this stop.

Dr. Terence Robinson discusses pruning techniques during the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

Dr. Terence Robinson discusses pruning techniques during the 2014 Winter Pruning Tour

Tall or super spindle? A matter of space

The difference between tall spindle and super spindle is simply a matter of space. Tall spindle trees have 3 feet to 1 meter of space between them, whereas super spindle trees are laid out with no more than 2 feet between them. The additional trees packed in to super spindle blocks make the tree densities much higher.

Seeing these systems firsthand during the International Fruit Tree Association’s (IFTA) tour of western New York in July, it was clear that growers are finding ways to make both systems work for them.

The yields produced by a super spindle system are marginally better than with tall spindle if, and only if, the grower has the right kind of management in place to handle the system, according to Cornell University researchers. The added expense of growing a super spindle orchard can be somewhat negated by growing your own trees. The majority of super spindle orchards seen on the IFTA tour were planted with trees the growers grew themselves, rather than buying them through a nursery. These growers usually worked in conjunction with other growers to form a cooperative nursery.

Lamont Fruit Farm in Medina, N.Y., has gone with super spindle. According to the plan, trees planted in 2009 will not begin to bear yields until 2012 and will not begin to repay the initial costs per acre until 2013. But the investment will show advances in income potential. When yields reach full potential with 1,200 bushels per acre, each acre will begin to show profit by the ninth year.

The Lamont growers are planting their trees in 11-foot by 2-foot spacings and at 2,000 trees to the acre. They are keeping costs down through a cooperative partnership with six other growers to act as their own nursery. [Read More]

The Tall Spindle System: Apple Orchard Design For The Future

After years of experimentation, Terence Robinson believes he knows what a modern apple tree should look like.

It’s taller than people once thought it would be, 10 feet tall, but the trunk is really small and there are no scaffold branches to speak of. It sits along a three-wire trellis with other trees, spaced about three feet apart, in rows 11 feet apart, on an M.9 or similar dwarfing rootstock. It fruits early, bearing 15 to 20 apples in its second year.

Growers who plant trees like this have to learn a different training and pruning system, but if they plant the right varieties they should make money.

Robinson spoke during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids, Mich., last month. The Cornell University horticulturist explained in detail how to establish such an orchard, how to prune and train it and how much income it should provide.

He and his fellow researchers at Cornell, especially Stephen Hoying, began studying the issue intensely 10 years ago and now speak confidently about what they call “the tall spindle system.” [Read More]

The Platform Factor – Labor Positioning Machines Producing Good Results for NY Apple Industry

This work was supported in part by the New York State Apple Research and Development Program and by the New York Farm Viability Institute.

Apple growers around the world are motivated to plant tightly spaced orchards for a variety of reasons, but the driving factors in the Lake Ontario Region, of New York, are the rapid attainment of high yields, good fruit quality, long-term productivity, high profitability, and higher labor efficiency. The Tall Spindle system has proven to be an excellent orchard design for more than 40 NY apple growers in our region. This system has achieved high early yields, high sustained yields, and excellent fruit quality while combining high tree planting densities, highly feathered trees, minimal pruning at harvest and over the first three years, branch angle manipulation, constant limb renewal during dormant pruning, and strict crop load management techniques. [Read More]