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The English Apple Man


13th Jul 2018 - The World Cup dream is over! What's happening in our orchards?

This season is proving an uncertain one as far as crop forecasting goes, but it does seem to be a little clearer. In the Journal for 29th June I wrote: "After the frosts in 2017 which caused sporadic damage across the country, this season shows 'knock on' effects. Where the crop was light in 2017 'generally' a good crop predicted this season, and where heavy crops were prevalent in 2017, crop predictions are not quite as good.


However, the 'run off' (natural thinning caused by the tree adjusting to 'as yet' unknown influences - extreme cold and/or extreme heat at critical stages of flower development have been suggested) has been general. Growers pointed out some of the anomalies - Gala (naturally a good cropper) has been observed to have set 2-3 apples per bunch on the upper branches, while 1-2 on the lower branches.


The general consensus appears to be: "we are probably looking at a good crop this year, but NOT a bumper crop"

This week, The English Apple Man popped into a few orchards and observed Cox generally light crop across the tree, but still in need of thinning as many bunches of 5 apples (too many) require thinning down to 2-3 fruits. It's a shame those fruits had not been spread across the tree, rather than in insufficient 'overset' bunches.


Below: thinning Cox in Kent today



On this farm Braeburn did not carry a heavy crop in 2017 and was 'full of blossom' this year; however the Breaburn crop is less than would be expected. This is prevalent in many Braeburn orchards.


Below: left; Braeburn trees and right; Braeburn apples



Just a couple of miles away, The EAM visited a young orchard where some Gala trees are growing on the twin leader Bibaum system. Close by Gala on a single (conventional tree) system, Mariri Red Braeburn and Stardance.


The single stem Gala in 2nd leaf are estimated to carry a 25 tonne per hectare crop; the 'transplanted' Bibaum Gala in 4th leaf anticipated to yield 50 tonne per hectare. The Stardance cropped at 25 tonne per hectare in 2017 is expected to yield 40 tonne per hectare this year.


Below: left; Gala trees in their 2nd leaf (planted March 2017) and right; Bibaum Gala trees which were 'transplanted' from another farm in early April 2017



Below: left; the Bibaum Gala trees were 3 years old when transplanted in April 2017 - right; Stardance trees



Below: left; these Stardance are an example of some of this seasons challenges; 'a big bunch of small apples' in need of thinning and right; a 'smaller bunch' of large apples in real danger of being to large at harvest time



Below: left; Mariri Red Braeburn in 2nd leaf (planted March 2017) right; Mariri Red Braeburn tree



Managing a young orchard often 'throws up' challenges; blind wood on fruiting branches and even on the main stem undermines the balance of cropping wood.


Below: left these trees have developed some bare wood on branches and right; this new shoot grows where the grower made a 'Dutch cut' (stub) in winter pruning to reduce (balance) the number of fruiting laterals; the blind wood branch will be pruned back to a Dutch cut this winter encouraging a new shoot



Below: left; a well 'furnished' main stem and right; the main stem has a long stretch with no buds or branches




Below: the group of Romanian workers thinning the Cox orchard when the EAM visited. In the centre COSMIN who works with his cousin Paul Haralambie whose business Sagittarius Solutions provides workers for UK growers.




That's all for this week



Take care



The English Apple Man