This Michigan growers apple orchard is bending over backwards to increase yield.
By Jean D. Aylsworth
LEO Dietrich, an apple grower from Conklin, Mich., has tried bending the leaders on some two-year-old trees to control tree vigor and possibly increase yields as well.
In a planting of Northern Spys on Mark rootstock, he went through the orchard in mid- to late April before blossom and bent the leader over at a 180° angle. The leader was tied to a nail driven into the trunk about 4 inches above the ground at a 10° angle.
The trees were left in this position for about one month until the first of June. The leader was then untied and bent back over 180° in the opposite direction and tied down again, reversing the procedure.
“We left it in that position for another month and on about July 1 we returned the leader to an upright position and fastened it to the bamboo stake with a tape gun,” Dietrich says. “When the leader was returned to an upright position, it had several 4- to 6- inch lateral shoots that originated at almost a 90° angle to the leader.
“We also tied all major scaffold branches down to a 90° angle. They were tied to the nail using a two-ply cotton twine.”
Dietrich says the process is rather labor-intensive, but results in earlier production and quicker return on investment.
“More fruit spurs are formed and that’s a difference you can see even in the dormant season,” he says. “Varieties that respond best include Northern Spy, Gala, and Fuji.”