October 16, 2009
Contacts: See list at end

Northern NY Apple Growers Modernizing Orchards

Northern New York – More crop harvested per acre means higher return to farmers.

High density apple orchards trained to the Tall Spindle system can produce six times more apples than older style orchards during the first five years and produce almost double the yield when the orchard is mature.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and New York Farm Viability Institute are funding research to evaluate the opportunity for regional apple growers to modernize their orchards with this high-density orchard system.

Project leader Terence L. Robinson, a Horticultural Sciences professor with the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, NY, says, “Modern high density orchard planting systems will help growers modernize their orchards to improve production efficiency, yield and fruit quality as well as grow new varieties to be remain competitive in the world apple market.”

Robinson is working with three Clinton County apple growers: Everett Orchards and Forrence Orchards in Peru, NY, and Chazy Orchards in Chazy, NY. The research is being conducted in collaboration with Cornell University and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Northeastern NY Commercial Fruit Program.

The research is evaluating pre-plant site and variety selection, land preparation, rootstock spacing, training systems, fertilization, irrigation, pruning, and thinning using five different orchard systems: Central Leader, Slender Pyramid, Vertical Axis, Solaxe, and Tall Spindle.

Densities in the systems range from 218 trees per acre to 1,307 trees per acre.

The research results will provide growers with data on opportunities to reduce labor costs through mechanization and increase yield and profit.

The project is also developing cost data for capital and equipment requirements for the five different orchard systems.

Robinson says, “The manner in which a grower pieces together the many decisions that form his orchard system often defines his economic success. Successful replanting of old orchards with popular new varieties in high density orchard systems will help the long-term viability of the Northern New York fruit industry.”

This Northern New York research project also involves:
• researchers and growers evaluating new rootstocks for winter hardiness.
The severe winter cold in 2002 killed more than 20,000 trees of the M.7 rootstock in Champlain valley orchards. The new rootstocks at the participating orchards include 17 bred by the Cornell Geneva apple rootstock breeding program; some from Germany, England, Russia, Canada, and Poland; and 16 of the leading dwarfing rootstocks for NNY.
• an annual thinning and return bloom management trial for the biennial but premium apple variety - Honeycrisp. and
• annual pre-harvest drop control trials for the main variety grown in Northern New York – the McIntosh apple.

Robinson says, “The Honeycrisp is an extremely high quality apple and one of the best tasting apples around, but it is proving to be difficult to manage for annual production. Improved thinning strategies are essential to result in annual bloom and the long-term successful production of this variety.”

He adds, “With the McIntosh, we hope to optimize the use of stop-drop spray treatments to reduce the pre-harvest dropping of apples, and to spread out the harvest using fewer pickers while still maintaining fruit quality. In some years, twenty to fifty percent of the apples can fall before harvest - that requires a very large labor force to pick the apples before they fall. Our improved drop control treatments will mean more apples will be harvested and sold with fewer pickers required. That reduces costs for the Northern New York apple growers.”

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research, outreach and technical assistance program working with farmers in New York’s Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Learn more at www.nnyagdev.org. The New York Farm Viability Institute is a farmer-led nonprofit group that awards grants for applied research and outreach education to help farms increase profits and provide models for farmers statewide. Learn more at www.nyfvi.org.

Project leader: Terence L. Robinson, Cornell University, 315-787-2227, tlr1@cornell.edu

Cornell Cooperative Extension Horticultural Educators for Northern NY:
• Clinton County: Amy Ivy, Anne Lenox Barlow, 518-561-7450
• Essex County: Anita Deming, Emily Selleck, 518-962-4810
• Franklin County: Carl Tillinghast, Richard Gast, 518-483-7403
• Jefferson County: Sue Gwise, 315-788-8450
• Lewis County: Joe Lawrence, 315-376-5270
• St. Lawrence County: Steve VanderMark, 315-379-9192

Cornell Cooperative Extension Northeastern NY Commercial Fruit Program:
Kevin Iungerman, 518-885-8995, kai3@cornell.edu

Northern New York Agricultural Development Program:  www.nnyagdev.org
• Co-Chair Jon Greenwood: 315-386-3231
• Co-Chair Joe Giroux: 518-563-7523

New York Farm Viability Institute: