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Newly Grafted Trees

Young grafts should be treated closer to vegetable starts than to trees. A nursery bed for that first year, at least, is required. Although the tree will require different environmental and nutritional needs than an annual, they do need the same sort of babysitting. Consider water and warmth as the “fertilizers” of first importance. This latter point is all to often left out of the equation. This also means keeping the humidity up, especially if the union is not healed so well. (Drying out the scion may not simply kill it, it may be just crummy growth). Also, make sure it is the growing conditions and not the grafting procedure that is causing slow growth. This especially means aftercare for proper heal. When they are growing, give them the attention you would give to your little tomatoes, including mulching and weeding.

There will be a disconnect in how the baby is treated in this first year or two, and how it will receive nutrition as an adult. Later in life in a healthy system, it will do well with gradual release through organic matter, in conjunction with good mycorrhizal fungal connections. Now, in a bed that has been prepared with forethought (fungal connections partially in place) and living soil, good growth is possible. Even in this situation, some supplementation is helpful. A foliar application is great, but a sustainably derived fertilizer in that bed is a good idea as well. They benefit from a bit of nitrogen which, being easily available in a mineralized form is an easy one, as is K. But, P and other micronutrients really should have been developed in that living soil. It is when the quick fix is needed that growers turn to industrial farming methods like triple superphosphate, miracle grow and 20 20 20 .

Having done this quite a bit commercially, I find that that first year never really is all that spectacular for growth, whether that is seedling plants or grafted fruit trees. I think they are pissed from being moved around and violated, and they need to be at peace again. That second year is always awesome, for most. But, if the soil is a mess and it is too late to fix it, foliar sprays, watering on time, and keeping things in the low 70’s will give the best growth rates.

If the little guys are stunted in that first year or two, it will take a few more to get things back on track, in my experience. That said, a small tree is not always a poor tree. (Charlie Brown knew this) As long as it is healthy, slower can also mean denser and more resilient wood. I would put our smaller gritty trees up against the overly succulent fertilizer pushed trees any day of the week.

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Rootstock Crowding Study

I wanted to bring attention to a study we are doing at Walden Heights. In both research and direct observation, there is evidence that crowding of root systems leads to some dwarfing effects. Apples in particular tend to avoid growing in the same soil regions that other members of their species do. ( Atkinson D, Naylor D, Coldrick GA (1976) The effect of tree spacing on the apple root system. Hortic Res 16: 89-105 ). Additional consideration is that direct competition of many other species in the vicinity should lead to an overall size reduction. By creating a full block planting, roots will be forced to compete 360 degrees.

We have planted two sections to standard stock apple, one as an 8×8 foot grid, one as an 4×8 foot grid. We also, for comparison have standards at 15 x 15, and 30 x 30. We also have apples (part of another test) in a high tunnel at 8 foot spacing. Since we alot of scionwood collection for the nursery, if the fruit production is, well, unfruitful, there is still merit in the exercise. We are forced by necessity since we need to find room for what is closing in on 500 varieties, without resorting to dwarf stock or excessive topworking. It gives us an opportunity to run such a test without risking too much. We will keep everyone posted on the progress. There are about 500 trees in the two blocks, of 6 standard rootstocks and roughly 300 scion varieties.

Obviously precocity isn’t necessarily being addressed, at least at first glance. Since stress often leads to early bearing, who knows. If excessive pruning is needed in the early years, this may actually delay bearing. Our goals here have never been for rushing the crop- thats what berry bushes are for. Tree longevity and low maintenance plants are. If we can couple this with a tree that can more within reach for spraying, harvesting and scion collection, it may have a place in many a farm plan. Not as a replacement, but as an addition to the overall system.

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Scab, Fiend or Friend ?

Salvestrol is one of the new words around town. It is apparently another helpful substance in the fight against cancer. Fitting in nicely with the other health benefits of eating fresh fruits, it also is helpful in giving us pause to reconsider the way we go about things in modern agriculture. The thing is, salvestrol production is pumped up when a fruit reacts to an affront, like say a fungal infection. That is the chemical is produced by the plant cells to help combat the pathogen. Without the attack, the presence of the salvestrol is low or nonexistant.

that levels of salvestrols are up to 30 times higher in organic produce, but almost absent in some commercially grown varieties. Some varieties of fruit have 40 or 50 times higher levels than others.

The point here is, in an effort to do away with a problem we have perhaps designed less healthy fruit. So maybe those folks who don’t think eating scabby fruits is beneath them may just be staying a bit more healthy than those with, well, refined cuisine.

In research published in the British Naturopathic Journal, Gerry Potter, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, and Dan Burke, Emeritus Professor of Pharmaceutical Metabolism, explain how salvestrols work. A good deal more on the subject can be found online.

There have been reports from growers that higher sugar levels occur in scab infected apples. We have not been able to find any scientific studies on the matter yet, but will keep you posted.

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Apple Nutrition

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Ok here’s why.

Calories 81
Carbohydrate 21 grams
Dietary Fiber 4 grams
Soluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber
Calcium 10 mg
Phosphorus 10 mg
Iron .25 mg
Sodium 0.00 mg
Potassium 159 mg
Vitamin C 8 mg
Vitamin A 73 IU
Folate 4 mcg


In addition to this is that there is a fair amount of pectin in the apple. Recent studies have hinted that pectin can help to reduce cholesterol levels. They are also high in dietary fiber which can keep things running smoothly, and reduce the risk of cancers of the digestive system. More to come…

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Apple Genome Project

The apple genome has been sequenced and revealed 57,000 genes in malus domestica. Considerable since the human genome contains only around 30,000. It comprises 17 chromosomes compared with the 7-9 typical in other Rosaceae family members. It is also double the number of chromosomes in the ancestral apple. A 5 country 18 institution effort produced the find, which has already fleshed out 992 genes involved in disease resistance in the fruit. It also confirms malus sieverseii as the true ancester to our domesticated apple. The information will be useful in reducing the time, effort and expense involved in standard breeding systems, whether or not it is used in a program of genetic modification. It has also been shown to clear up confusion on the origins and dispersal of the malus species, as in the possibility of the native american apples being a direct link to the ancestral species of asia. (There are suggestions of coming across the Bering land bridge with the native peoples who also carry a genetic link to ancient asian peoples.) Though it is likely that advances such as this will lead to the development of plantlife which will become proprietory and profit driven, it still stands as a great human intellectual feat worthy of respect. Let us hope it will be used to more easily feed people in need, and to expand our culture and understanding above all else.

The original article was first released in the journal Nature Genetics.