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Spurred on to greater things


June 17, 2014
By Dan Woolley

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Lisa Jenereux explains her crop load management regime to NSFGA orchard tour visitors. Photo by Dan Woolley

 

The Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association annual tour participants had an opportunity to talk crop load, peach thinning, apple rootstocks and pears during an orchard stop at the Spurr Brothers’ orchard in Melvern Square, N.S.

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Orchard manager Lisa Jenereux demonstrated a newly purchased, hand-held, electrically powered string thinner on a fifth leaf planting of peaches.

She described the new string thinner as “a great time-saver,” cutting by half, at least, the time required to thin the peach block. She is also going to apply the string thinner to her apples.

“It also saves money,” she added. “To make money on peaches, you have to cut down your labour costs.”

Jenereux felt the best time in the peach orchard to use the electrical string thinner is when the buds on the trees start to open. She estimated the string thinner will require two-thirds less time than hand thinning, although some hand thinning will still be required.

She also recommended an aggressive program of removal of older branches on peach trees, 15 per tree, “back to the bud.

“You have to hit peaches real hard to get re-growth,” she said.

She is also converting her suspension system from V-trellis to a bi-axial design to better control tree growth.

“I hate V-trellis, everything about it. It is complicated.”

Her five-year old block of peaches – Early Red Haven and Red Haven – were, unfortunately, planted on heavy clay and after the block’s first year, had to be replanted due to a heavy loss of trees over winter, she said. Because of the heavy clay, during a prolonged dry spell it has to be constantly watered through drip lines as the trees will stop growing. Jenereux is considering installing permanent irrigation.

In the past several years, Jenereux has also overseen the planting of some new apple cultivars. She has planted Sweet Tango on M9 and Bud 9 rootstocks. She said the M9 look terrific but the Bud 9 look terrible. She is doing what she can to rehabilitate the Bud 9 plots through thinning, irrigation, fertilization with chicken manure, and mounding more earth around the base of the trunks.

She believes now, instead of Bud 9, she should have planted on EM 26 rootstock. The Bud 9, she feels, doesn’t do well on a wire suspension in the Maritime climate.

Jenereux believes the Sweet Tango cultivar would have done better on conduit. She also has a new planting of Sonya and Ambrosia in her apple block, which she is also thinning to control rust.

In 2013, she planted three acres of her orchard with the new Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada pear cultivar, Harovin Sundown.

Scotian Gold Cooperative sold Jenereux the pear trees for this new planting of the AAFC’s first club variety.

Larry Lutz, Scotian Gold’s director of growers’ services, said Vineland Growers Cooperative – which holds exclusive rights to market and distribute Harovin Sundown from AAFC’s Vineland Research and Innovation Centre – has licensed Scotian Gold as the Atlantic Canadian sales agent for the new pear variety.

The pear trees were grown as nursery stock by Mori Essex Nurseries Inc, based in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., under a license from the Vineland Growers Cooperative, with any royalties and marketing fees from sales of the trees reverting to AAFC to support more research.

Robert Haynes, Mori Essex’s general manager, said Harovin Sundown is a strong tree with very good fire blight resistance, producing pears that store very well.

Lutz added it also produces excellent tasting fruit, noting Scotian. Gold sold Harovin Sundown nursery stock to five local growers in 2013 and is looking at club variety partnerships with several more fruit producers this year.

The first planting of the new pear variety occurred in 2011 in the Niagara Peninsula and Vineland Growers Cooperative predicts that by this year, growers will have planted 50,000 Harovin Sundown trees in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula and Atlantic Canada.

Research to develop the first Canadian-bred pear variety began in the early 1970s at AAFC’s Harrow, Ont., research station and concluded in 2007 with its subsequent release by breeder, Dr. David Hunter in 2008 as the named cultivar, Harovin Sundown. It is a cross of Bartlett with several numbered lines – US 56112-142, US 309, Michigan-US 437 – plus genetic contributions from the Roi Charles de Wurtemburg, Barseck and Seckel varieties.

AAFC says as its first club variety, Harovin Sundown is a highly productive, late-harvested pear with no evidence of biennial bearing.

Of the 800 acres at the Spurr Bros. Farm, about 110 acres are in orchard. Jenereux applies fungicide every five to seven days.

She considers the purchase of a herbicide sprayer to be her best investment in 2013.

“I can’t believe how much quicker we can get through it by being able to spray two rows, instead of one. We used a lot of Glyphos this year.”

Spurr Bros. Farm also grows row crops of potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, raspberries, strawberries, haskaps, cucumbers and beans. ❦

 


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