On Tuesday The English Apple Man joined circa 100 attendees at Fruit Science Live held at Brogdale Farm, sponsored by ICL with trial work carried out by FAST Technical personnel.
On Wednesday after an early start, The English Apple Man spent the day at Fruit Focus an annual event highlighting the latest developments in fruit and viticulture.
This week The English Apple Man will report on Tuesday evening at Brogdale Farm when circa 100 attendees gathered at Fruit Science Live for the third year of an event which is fast becoming a 'must attend' opportunity for visitors to view the trials sponsored by ICL and carried out by the FAST technical team.
With so many attendees, we set of in groups of 25; The EAM was in the first group and our first stop was the Fruit Dry Matter trial presented by FAST's Senior Trials Officer Abi Dalton
Abi outlined the trial objectives and the treatments measured to determine the influence of thinning on the level of dry matter content which is now accepted as the 'marker' for delivering apples with good storage capability and eating quality ex store.
The treatments were: 1. A control (standard) for comparison. 2. Bud thinning. 3. Mechanical thinning. 4. Chemical thinning using Exilis + Fixor. 5. Chemical thinning using Brevis. 6. Hand thinning using standard process. 7. Hand thinning to size. 8. Hand thinning late.
Below: Abi Dalton and Treatments used in Fruit Dry Matter Content Trial
The objective of the trial was to see what the various thinning methods had on the Fruit Dry Matter Content. First table shows the percentage of 'fruit drop' either by natural drop and by thinning treatments. The FDMC was also measured on the fruit from the upper canopy and lower canopy, to determine the influence of light on the FDMC. With exposure to good sunlight the influencing factor on FDMC the data demonstrates all treatments deliver higher FDMC from the upper canopy.
Below: The table below shows the percentage of fruit dropped (naturally or by thinning) from each treatment
Below: Trial data showing the level of Fruit Dry Matter Content from fruit in the lower and higher region of the trees
Our next stop; a trial using ICL H2Flo to reduce the water used by adding H2Flo to the irrigation water which is designed to improve the uptake of water, thus reducing the amount of water required to produce the crop by 25%.
Below: ICL representative and FAST's Rob Cooke (on right) explain the objectives and water management to attendees.
Rob Cooke who conducts the trial on a 'day to day' basis explained the water application strategy. By measuring the needs of the tree on water availability and measuring the rainfall, any deficit on the water applied to makeup the shortage is applied. At the same time, the area treated with H2Flo is raised to 75% of the target water application, with the added H2Flo delivering equal efficacy with 25% less water usage.
Below: left; H2Flo trial 'water only treatment' and right; 'H2Flo added to water' trial plot
Below: H2Flo product attributes
The need for accurate sensor technology is fulfilled by using 'Soilmoisturesense' sensors.
Click on SOILMOISTURESENSE for details of the Soil Moisture Sense technology
Moving on: Next we visited a 'fruit bud removal' trial carried out on Braeburn apples. Breaburn (like Cox) can so easily slip into a Biennial habit of over cropping one year followed by a poor crop the next year. Trial work in New Zealand (the origin of Braeburn) has demonstrated the benefit of reducing fruit bud on the tree to a 'target number' of buds for an optimum crop of 'yield & quality'
Below: left; FAST's Richard Killian outlines principles of bud reduction trial to attendees and right; Braeburn in trial plot
Below: Braeburn in trial plot and right; Tim Biddlecombe FAST Chairman adds his comments on the efficacy of bud removal
The next visit to us to the Multi Stem Trial; hosted by FAST's James Shillitoe and a trial of particular interest to The English Apple Man who follows the evolution of tree systems with great enthusiasm.
Below: James Shillitoe outlines the principles of Multi Stem trees where two leading branches are trained to be horizontal and a number of shoots trained upwards to form 'super spindle' fruiting units. The number can be 4, 6 or 8 super spindles. The objective is less trees per hectare (= less cost) and fruiting units (super spindles) which will need minimal pruning. In this trial, James has utilised Bibaum trees (2 leaders) and bent them to horizontal and selected new shoots to become the super spindle fruiting units.
In this trial the two leaders have been allowed to grow vertically with new shoots forming the other 'multi stem' units. The problem here is getting an even growth and early crop production to make the system viable.
The EAM Comments: This trial has utilised Bibaum trees which have been modified into 'Multi Stem' trees. Ideally the trees would be developed in the nursery to ensure balanced stems of equal vigour.
Below: James and right; multi stem trial trees
Below: Bending the two leaders into a horizontal position, risks the leaders splitting away from the rootstock. To overcome that risk, James has bent the leaders across to avoid the risk of splitting.
Below: James and the Fruit Science Delegates inspecting the Multi Stem Trial
For a view of how Multistem Trees are perceived in New Zealand: Click on; Multi Stem Trees
Last on our visit to trial sites; the Blueberry trial. Blueberries grow best on a sunny site in sandy peat soil, but they also do well in heavy soils if they are well-drained, aerated, high in organic matter and receive adequate moisture. The most important requirement for growing blueberries is acidic soil.
Below: FAST's Katie explains the principles of using phLOW a product designed to allow/enhance production in soil/compost with a higher ph than ideal
Below: Blueberry trial rows - Control on left and phLOW plants on right. Right; Quality Blueberries
Summarising ICL Fruit Science Live; the projects on trial at Brogdale are important to the future of our UK fruit industry and the work carried out by FAST personnel is a valuable element in delivering success.
Until next week..
The English Apple Man