Twin-stem trees offer growers more even growth, better-quality fruit and less management overall. But because trees are budded twice, they cost more to buy, Bird explained. "I'm trialling a way of achieving the same result but which growers could do themselves."
Using the Annaglo clone of Gala, he cut the main stem down immediately after planting to leave two feathers at the right height. "My thinking is that with the attention to detail that growers pay to their crops, and the irrigation and fertigation that modern orchards now have, the trees' potential will be maximised - so do they need to be budded twice to get the same result?"
The demonstration site also includes a range of modern and traditional cider apple varieties. "Cider trees can behave very differently to dessert varieties, for instance in their response to being sprayed," said Bird. "Few agrochemical manufacturers will have tested their products on all but the most important apple varieties, but we can do it here."
Agrii is also one of the partners supporting East Malling's new trials vineyard, planted last month.
More information about Agrii's involvement in the site and its plans for future trials will be available from Agrii's stand at next month's Fruit Focus (see preview, p43), which will also include a tour of the iFarm site.