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January 2014


Liebig's Law of the Minimum states that growth is controlled not by the total of resources available, but by the scarcest resource.  Increasing the amount of plentiful nutrients did not increase growth.  The plants did not need the plentifully available nutrients, it needed the scarcer nutrient in relation to “need”.  Only by increasing the limiting factors was plant growth improved.  This is easily pictured by the barrel with a “short stave”.  You can fill it only as high as the shortest stave. 

Each and everyone of us has a “short stave” that limits our production, our quality, our profitability, our ???  This is a great time of year (the only time for me) to stop and think about what factors limit my business.  What's keeping me from producing that higher tonnage?  That better quality?  Reducing the percentage of insect damage?  Making sure I'm at my grandkid's ball game?  If we don't stop to look for the “short stave” we'll never rise above it!   We grow blind to our own shortcomings, our own habits.  If you're willing to humble yourself, have a friend over and ask him to look for your “short stave”!

“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.”  – John Adams

In early December I attended the Washington State Hort show and WSU’s fruit school entitled: “The Honey Crisp Experience: Production, Harvest and Storage.”  What follows are assorted quotes, comments and facts that I picked up through the week.  My comments are all in italics.


  • M26 rootstock did poorly in replant situations.

  • The GC series rootstocks are showing great promise, especially G16, G30 & G41. 

  • Fumigation before replanting still provides better yield in all cases.

  • We’ve proved with over a decade of research that an apple planting density in the neighborhood of 1100 trees/ac on a dwarfing rootstock is the most profitable.

  • Early production (2nd leaf) is achieved by planting at this density, minimal pruning at planting (never heading the central leader) and bending branches below horizontal.

  • Orchards must be intercepting 70-75% of available sunlight.  Tree height can only be 90% of row width to accomplish this goal.

  • Diameters based pruning is the foundation principal behind all their pruning programs.  They always start by cutting the biggest branches out of the tops.

Bruce Allen – Allan Brothers Inc., Naches, WA

We’ve settled on a 13’ row with tree spacing at somewhere between 3’ to 5’ for all our apple plantings.


Tim Smith - Washington State University Extension, Wenatchee, WA

  • From Tim’s talk on Fireblight (FB)

  • Sanitation (dormant removal) is by far the most important aspect of control.

  • Spring time management is all about prevention.  We must manage the bacteria before it’s levels build up.

  • If active FB cankers are present start early and blanket the bloom period with controls.

  • Dormant/Delayed dormant copper is very effective if active cankers are present in the block.

  • Cueva is a new copper product by Certis.  It’s OMRI listed and is safe for use through the season.  This product will give us a good choice for FB and Coryneum Blight control in season.  Certis has conducted extensive trials and proved the material safe on sensitive crops.

  • Lime sulfur and oil sprays are very helpful with FB control.  Bloom thinning with these products greatly reduces FB through the bloom period.



Notes from: “The Honey Crisp Experience: Production, Harvest and Storage.” 

  • Not an easy variety to chemical thin.

  • Crop load is critical to quality (taste).

  • Crop load tree to tree impacts how quickly internal starch levels reduce (clear out) relative to red  skin color advancement.  This means that too heavy of load on the tree results in ripe fruit that is still green colored.

  • Optimal range for fruit load is 5 – 7 fruits / cm of Trunk Cross sectional Area (TCA).  A gauge has been developed that measures the size of a branch to give the TCA.  You can then estimate the optimal number of fruit that should be grown on that branch.  I’m in the process of obtaining some of these gauges.  Let me know if you’re interested.


Panel Discussion: “Practical experience for establishment and non-bearing years”, moderated by Tom Auvil (TA), WTFRC; participants Terence Robinson (TR), Mike Robinson (MR) and Bruce Allen (BA).

BA- Our returns for HC have shown that the following is not unusual:

  • 10 packs per bin

  • $50 per box for ExFancy

  • $40 per box for #1’s

  • Returns of $340 per bin

MR - I’ve seen as many HC blocks that haven’t filled their space (and never will) as those that have.

BA - It’s not unusual to only pack 4 boxes per bin.

BA - Old Red Delicious sites are best for HC.  These cooler sites give better color and the fruit size is a bit smaller.

TR - Cooler sites = smaller fruit, more color and better storage quality with less problems.

BA – There’s potential production of 15 million boxes of HC planted.  The fruit will be easy to sell if the taste is there.

TR –This apple needs high prices ($50) to make it feasible, $30 per box won’t be profitable.

TR – HC sets up too many spurs relative to shoot growth.  It wants to overcrop.

BA – I allow no fruit in the second leaf.  The tree will shut down and not ever grow again.

MR – I’ve never seen a tree that has stopped growing (from excessive fruit load) start back up again, ever.

MR – This variety demands that you be spot on with irrigation and nutrition management.

BA – Our site prep for planting goes as follows: Rip, fumigate (replant sites), green manure cover crop, compost added at planting.  We fertigate daily through the drip system using high P rates early, then more N as the season advances.

MR – We use 5 -7 foliar applications (urea + micros) along with 3 – 4 ground applications of fertilizer per season.

TR – Need to take some risk in pushing tree growth.  Be aggressive. 

TR - We can’t show any statistical difference in any area of our research using Bio stimulants.

BA – We’ve never found a snake oil (Bio stimulant) that works.  We use them all the time, we’re just not sure why…..

MR – run the throttle wide open the first two years to fill the space, then pull the brakes and remove the N from the system.

BA – 30# of N per acre is a lot (excessive?) on mature producing HC.

TR – rootstock selection is critical to tree growth, especially in replant sites.  The new Geneva series hold great promise.

BA – We must manage growth within the tree. Allowing it where we need it but stopping it where we don’t.  (He used upright suckers on horizontal branches as an example of where growth must not be allowed.)

TR – Watch branch diameters within the system.  Don’t allow “big” branches.

BA – Grafting works for HC, but the rootstock underneath will affect how consistently the block fruits year to year.


The following thoughts are ones that I heard over and over again throughout the conference -

  • Overcropping HC results in:

  • External Factors - Poor fruit size, lack of color.

  • Internal Factors – Low soluble solids, high starch, low acid content.

  • Post-Harvest Factors – Lower pressure, increased susceptibility to storage problems.

  • Reduced bloom the following season.

  • Survey’s at the retail level show that there’s a direct correlation between acid and soluble solids levels (TASTE!) and a buyers willingness to pay a high price and return for additional purchases.

  • Factors that limit canopy development:

    • Mildew

    • Cropping too soon

    • Not enough trees per acre.

  • Optimal range of fruit load is 3 – 5 fruits per cm sq TCA.  This load results in optimum fruit size and quality.

  • Find the correct rootstock vigor and tree density that results in the canopy space being filled in 2-3 years for high yields.

  • This is not a new concept.  Most growers are planting apples at  +/-   1000/trees per acre with a trellis system.


I have all of the speaker’s presentations from the Honey Crisp school on a flash drive.  There are pages and pages of great info not only on Honey Crisp but growing apples in general.  If you would like to see this information, give me a call.


“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Here’s to a new season!




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