Cox replaced by higher-yield modern apple types

Growers on Spring Farm Walk at AC Goatham & Son site at Howt Green Farm see new Braeburn orchards planted in winter.

Last year's Top-Fruit Grower of the Year award-winner AC Goatham & Son is reducing the amount of Cox apples that it produces and replacing them with higher-yielding modern varieties.

The company has grubbed up old Cox orchards at its Howt Green Farm site in Sittingbourne - a farm it has owned since 2008 and the location of this year's British Independent Fruit Growers Association (BIFGA) Spring Farm Walk on 24 April.

Then, Nigel Stewart, technical manager at the Kent-based grower, revealed that the farm's old Cox orchards had been replaced with Braeburn. "Cox is diminishing within the company. We have had far too many headaches with it."

He added: "The (top-fruit) industry makes too much Cox, so it's a no-brainer really." Stewart revealed that Cox yields half as much as the 60-65 tonnes per hectare with modern varieties.

He explained that once they are harvested, 30-35 per cent of Cox apples are classed as defects and thrown out - compared with discards of just 10 per cent with the more modern varieties.

Growers on the BIFGA Spring Farm Walk were shown one of AC Goatham & Son's new Braeburn orchards that was planted this winter. The 1.2ha site follows the trend of intensive planting to help produce as much fruit as possible. For this reason, the trees were planted 80cm apart on 3m-high stakes.

The farm's grower Clive Goatham said: "We have planted about 3,500 trees per hectare. The more trees we get in a hectare the more fruit we get in the end."

The orchard also follows a consumer trend for redder eating apples with a variety named Fenbra, which claims to be "redder than red."

Goatham added that the firm aims to keep the size of the apples small for the polybag market. For this reason, he added, it does not thin the apple blossom to reduce the amount of apples harvested.

Lower yield How bad weather hit 2012 crop

Poor weather last year led to large drops in top-fruit yields, AC Goatham & Son technical manager Nigel Stewart has said.

He showed growers on the British Independent Fruit Growers Association Spring Farm Walk an 8.5ha Braeburn orchard that was planted in 2008. Its yields in 2012 were half that of the previous year.

The orchard, he said, has 30,000 trees of the Hilwell variety. It cropped 82 tonnes per hectare in 2011 but in 2012 it cropped just 40 tonnes a hectare. Stewart added that mistakes they made on the farm - such as over-cropping and not feeding the trees enough nitrogen - contributed to some of the yield losses.

Clive Goatham said: "What we did not appreciate is that what you take out you need to put back. We now put enough nitrogen back through fertigation and through the leaf."

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