Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Growing cherries under cover in Nova Scotia


April 17, 2008
By Dan Wooley

Topics

It may be something new to
Atlantic growers but it may not be for long.  Andrew Bishop’s Noggins
Corner Farm at Greenwich, Nova Scotia, (in the Annapolis Valley) is the
site of an adaptive trial featuring the British designed and built
Haygrove Tunnel system.

Haygrove Tunnel system makes its premiere

It may be something new to Atlantic growers but it may not be for long.  Andrew Bishop’s Noggins Corner Farm at Greenwich, Nova Scotia, (in the Annapolis Valley) is the site of an adaptive trial featuring the British designed and built Haygrove Tunnel system. The model in use is a hooped row cover intended for tree crops (cherries and peaches), cane crops (raspberries and blackberries) and flowers.

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The trial is a joint project by Bishop and agricultural consulting firm Agra Point International to see if the tunnel will reduce rain cracking in cherries. During the 2005 season, the results looked good with no splitting among the cherries under the cover, said Bishop, adding that birds were also not an issue as they did not seem to discover the cherries under the polythene covering. Meanwhile, in a block of uncovered cherry trees, he sustained up to a 100 per cent loss to rain-splitting and bird pecks.

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Andrew Bishop (left), a fruit producer from Noggins Corner Farm at Greenwich, Nova Scotia, explains what he likes about the Haygrove tunnel system while Bill Craig, an Agra Point International tree fruit specialist, looks on. Photo by Dan Woolley. 

Bill Craig, an Agra Point tree fruit specialist, observed that the Haygrove canopy might also assist in the control of brown rot.

Bishop is hopeful the tunnel will help him extend his growing season both earlier and later – as U.S. grower Oregon Coastal Flowers did by as much as six weeks.

“I am quite excited about it,” he said.

The tunnel’s two bays cover about one-quarter of an acre of Bishop’s orchard. The frame consists of a system of vertical metal poles supporting metal hoops over the tree crop. These hoops in turn support the plastic, translucent covering, which can be furled or unfurled, depending on the season and/or weather.

For early production, Bishop said he would keep the canopy furled until after bloom and, given the Annapolis Valley climate, he felt he would not have to worry about summer ventilation. He added that although the tunnel will provide protection against rain and hail, the canopy has to be furled in the late fall as it will not support a snow load.

Craig estimated the plastic covering over the hoops will last about three years but added it could last longer if it is rolled up and covered by a black plastic sheet after the season concludes.

Tunnel dimensions, depending on the tree or cane crop, range from a height of three to 5.5 metres (10 to 18 feet) to a bay width of 5.5 to 8 metres (18 to over 26 feet).

It’s estimated that one-acre of Haygrove coverage costs just over $30,000.

Agra Point staff will be collecting data at the Bishop farm over the next two to three years to see if the tunnel will pay for itself. They will also be examining what effect, if any, the tunnel may have on pollinators. The study will involve two different types of bees.

If results continue to be favourable, Craig believes the next step may be to design orchards with slightly narrower tree rows in order to accommodate use of the Haygrove system.

The Haygrove Tunnel, first sold in the United Kingdom in 1996, is growing in use among growers within Ontario and the United States and is also under trial at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown College.