25 May 2018

Training Trees

From Country Life, 9:30 pm on 25 May 2018
No caption

Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Plant and Food Research is trialling a radically new way of growing trees. It is training them to grow like candelabra.

Some traditional growers say it'll never work.

But Plant and Food Research scientist Jill Stanley says a trial that's taking a revolutionary approach to the way fruit trees are grown is looking very exciting.

"It's extremely positive. Others [growers] say 'that looks really good' and we have some who are planting up trial blocks ... so they are in boots and all."

No caption

Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

The Plant and Food Research trial trains cherry, apple, apricot and hybrid pear trees to grow in a line. The trees are splayed out and resemble thin candelabra - with branches like candles growing straight up.

"So what we have done is we have thrown everything we know about growing fruit out the door and we have started from the beginning, from physiological principles, which means we try to look at how we can best utilise the incoming light to get the most crop off the area of land we have," Jill says.

She says the rows are planted closer together – some only 1.5m-2m apart -  the fruit is easier to pick and the trees easier to prune.

“People that have been picking love it,” she says.

Trees are started off in the nursery with two trunks which become the cordons and vertical branches grow from that.

“The thing is, that’s how a tree likes to grow,” Jill says. “It likes to grow upright towards the light.”

With other designs, branches are pulled down but in this method, Jill says, “we’re not fighting the tree".

“We’re spreading the vigour over 12 uprights, so by developing a design where we don't need to do much pruning we will quieten the tree down and convert more of the energy that the leaves receive into more fruit."

They will also come into production earlier than trees grown using current orcharding practices.


Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Country Life

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)