Analysis of the formation processes and vigor control in modern cherry orchards

Analysis of the formation processes and vigor control in modern cherry orchards

By: Manuel Brion G. Agronomic Engineer. Technical department head - Exportadora del Sur Export company.Carlos J. Tapia T. Agronomic Engineer. M. Sc. in Agronomy Avium-SmartCherry. Pomanova Corporation.

At present, no matter the formation system used, a cherry orchard must have a productive potential with a minimum near 12 Metric Tons/ha in order to be competitive. However, to reach this number and maintain it over time one must carry out many tasks that concern the formation stage of the projects. After this, maintenance and reproductive/vegetative balance is an essential basis for this productive potential.

Once “on the bike”: What type/age of wood should I have in the fruit centers to have quality fruit with production potential?

The fruit quality is defined by the relation of leaf/fruit that the tree has, and furthermore by the capacity that each fruit center has (spur or branch base for the year) to feed the amount of fruit that it contains. This capacity is larger when the spurs are inserted in the branch section of an optimum diameter. However, the thicker branches inside a plant tend to favor the vegetative part and begin to branch out in excess, above all when they have been heavily intervened in winter pruning. For this reason the most important thing is to manage the balance concept of the trees, that is, we should form a tree with balanced branches within, eliminating both extremes, the very thick and very thin branches.

It’s very important that all this analysis begin to take place once the orchard is established, since the success of achieving each one of the stages of the project depends upon these tasks. 

Going back, in establishing a new orchard the following must be considered:

First formation stage

After planting the orchard, the most important thing is to promote the basis of the “skeleton of the trees”. If it is an axis-based system, we must be able to develop the best axis in this season, over 2 meters high, with good buds and internodes, and (in this case), without lateral ones that can be “over-developed” the next season and go against an optimum balance. Any intervention above the axis in development during the first season is a contrary sign to the development of the roots. This is how axis intervened “in green” with the objective of advancing branching, wrongly in many cases, wind up with very heterogeneous orchards and with roots that are not totally expressed that season.

To obtain these “good axes”, both in a central axis as well as its variations (Y-V Trellis, double axis, etc.) it is essential to develop them in the orchard from 40 to 50 cm. Due to this it is recommendable that the established orchards from the finished plant be lowered at the time of planting. This is how it starts with a fully rooted plant that is “brand new”. 

In KGB, however, this base of the “skeleton” is the crown from which all branches will grow. This crown must be well illuminated so that in the future the orchard allows branches to continue to grow.

Photo 1: Axis developed in orchard, objective of first stage of formation.

Photo: Manuel Brión G.

Second stage of formation

After finalizing the initial stage and insuring a good primary structure of the trees, the objective now is to complete the “skeleton” of the plants, which means obtaining structures that will give way to production. Generally, we speak of “mother branches” where future fruit centers (especially spurs) will be lodged and they should not be permanent, but are expected to fulfill a productive cycle to then be renewed.

Branching is a critical task in the formation of an orchard, since it is essential there is a minimum quantity generated with a development of at least 70-80 cm. long, and ideally starting from 50-60 cm. in height from the axis.

Among the branching techniques we can find different ideas and procedures that allow branching the trees and obtaining this structure. Without going into detail about which technique is the best, we can point out three important issues in the branching process: SUPERVISION, SUPERVISION & SUPERVISION. The most important aspect in the formation and development of the orchards, which partially defines the homogeneity and potential of the project production. The greatest and most important difference between success and failure in the formation of these plants is the lack of analysis and supervision, which must be done continuously from the start until the finish of the branching process.

A well-branched tree is a balanced tree from the beginning. In spring, when these lateral growths start to become defined, it is recommendable to at least reason about the procedure and need of orthopedics, where many times we can start with the use of toothpicks and end up with the tying of well-developed branches toward the end of the summer. This allows the start of “balancing” the tree to promote its early entrance to production.

Third stage of formation

When the skeleton or the permanent structure of the plants is defined, the most important thing is to identify the balance of each one, this being already analyzed in the following winter.

This analysis is done from the critical point of view of structural balance, so that all growth that is above this “balance” is eliminated. The elimination of these over-vigorous branches, considered initial renewal pruning, is to leave a “block” that allows new growth with the correct vigor for the plant’s average. This point is reproducible in all the conduction systems, since we must keep a balance between the branches in all of them that are forming the plant. It’s important to analyze the balance in each section of the plant, since a branch with average vigor in the lower part probably will be vigorous in the upper part, and it must be eliminated in order to maintain this balance above, where we need a better control of growth to allow light to enter.

Photo 2. First renewal pruning with the objective of balancing the plant.

Photo: Manuel Brión G.

During all the productive life of the orchard it is important to maintain this “balance” concept through the renewal of branches, since we need to base the production on young spurs that are the ones that could keep high potential. However, the above is under permanent study by the different specialists and there is still no consensus regarding the concept of a higher age in the spur possibly translating into lower quality fruit. 

No matter the age of the orchard, it should always look “young” and with vigor, with healthy spurs and balanced branches that provide very good fruit quality.

In this way we should talk about the concept of “permanent renewal” and not about a technique. We must also consider that this balance concept, that allows the structure to be in constant evolution, is administrable from the branching year. Once the plants come into the productive state, and many times into the vicious circle of very vigorous branches, shade and wood wear, renewal is not always safe and successful.

Last of all, this renewal model is adjusted without any problems to all the existing conduction systems, from the traditional central axis, Y-Trellis, Tatura, axes with more density, and with more importance in formation models like KGB and UFO.

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