Go taller on top fruit formats for cost benefits, conference hears

Delegates told planting with taller stakes can increase tonnage per hectare and improve colour.

Growers should consider the advantages of taller top fruit formats when replanting, Farm Advisory Services Team fruit adviser Chris Levett told the British Independent Fruit Growers' Association technical day last month.

The difference between 2.5m and 3m tree stakes might not sound hugely consequential, he said. "But using 3m stakes you get four tonnes per hectare more fruit, which is worth about £645. The higher fruit will also colour up better."

Staked trees can suffer from excess vigour on top. But Levett advised growers to corkscrew the leader around the post rather than pruning.

What is less clear-cut is the choice of staked trees versus post-and-wire formats, he said. While stakes were relatively cheap and quick to plant, they rot and a fallen tree can cost £50 to replace, he cautioned. "But in high winds, you can also go badly wrong with post-and-wire."

There are at least six post-and-wire formats in use and these can also exploit the benefits of height, going up to 4m high. Levett added: "There are 20,000 twin-stem trees going in this winter. You can make post-and-wire fit whatever system you want."

Fruit wall potential

The fruit wall format has the potential to reduce production costs while also boosting yield, said Farm Advisory Service Team fruit adviser Chris Levett.

"Several are going in to the ground this winter. I can see why this is coming because there is money to be made from it." The chief advantage is that fruit walls can be pruned by machine. "But timing is critical," Levett added.

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