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GrowOrganicApples.com is a Holistic Orchard Network: Together we can Grow Organic Apples as part of the local foods movement.
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Apple Grower Network Research

Adapted illustration by John Bunker, FEDCO Trees
Adapted illustration by
John Bunker, FEDCO Trees

All apple growers are invited to join in this community effort by sharing innovative research and bouncing around unconventional ideas. Comparison trials amongst growers targeting similar apple varieties on soil-focused orchard sites will prove very insightful to us all.

Holistic Orchard Research

"If a grower knows why, he or she will teach themselves how."
L. H. Bailey, The Principles of Fruit Growing, 1897, 1926
Descartes -- click for Holistic Orchard Network Discussion Forum
Explore even more nuance in our grower discussion forum.

Thoughts on Grassroots Research

Useful research for holistic orchardists will always depend on the integration of several factors. Tree health counts, air drainage counts, birds count, microbes count, beneficial insects count, and when it comes to inputs, synergy counts. The organic context is best seen as a holistic integration of everything we do. Nor will an organic solution necessarily seem worthy if we insist on the same standards of "chemical perfection". The mythical 95% packout ties into a cheap food system that requires large-scale growers, mega-packing houses, and WalGreed super stores to set out the syrupy and insipid results of the harvest. A sensible local economy that provides locally-grown food is one of the factors integral to the methods we seek to develop.

We always need to think "integration" in our research approaches even though combined effects are much harder to discern!

Ideas abound when we start considering insect balance, timing of sprays, synergy, holistic disease management approaches like compost tea, and especially living soil systems. Bioregional groups have the best opportunity to "loosely coordinate" the cutting edge ideas of its participating growers. Communicating through the Community Orchardist newsletter and these research pages is one way we can share solid results.

Ron Prokopy of the University of Massachusetts

Holistic Consciousness

Learning to "project your consciousness" into the mind of an insect (or a scab spore or a feeder root tip for that matter) is a powerful way to understand the interconnectedness of Nature. The late Ron Prokopy of the University of Massachusetts did this time and time again in developing numerous strategies to deter orchard pests over the course of his lifetime. Any and all apple growers need to hone their observation skills and then literally listen to the teachings that the orchard willingly shares. Ron's influence will live on for a long time to come in each of us who seeks to understand deeply.

Photo courtesy of Tracey Leskey
Grow your orchard library at our Bookshelf
Grow your orchard library at our Bookshelf.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

Two tools in particular intrigue me for "putting numbers" on our methods from which we can begin to draw conclusions. BRIX readings have great relevance as to soil methods, observable pest resistance, and fruit nutritional content. Ergo, we all need to invest in refractometers! Soil life testing produces a biological profile of individual orchard soils that says way more than any nutrient-based soil test reveals. Bioassays are more costly but if we really want to explore which living soils approaches have the greatest health merit, we, the growers, need to do this. Both soilfoodweb.com (living soils) and woodsend.org (composts and compost teas) are reputable labs that offer vital knowledge.

Particular Notions

Every fruit grower has an intuitive understanding of what needs to be better understood. The parameters for establishing a grower-managed trial are outlined in the revised Apple Grower (see page 58). Here we list just a few holistic possibilities to get the ol' noggin turning:

  • Mycorrhizal support, from root dips to fungal foods
  • Cover cropping scenarios for dwarf tree plantings using the "haphazardly-mulched Swiss Sandwich method" of understory management (see pages 50-52)
  • Orchard nuances of compost tea brewing and application
  • Horsetail tea as a source of silicon for disease resistance purposes
  • Indigenous herbal remedies that induce systemic resistance (see pages 242-3) in the apple tree
  • Surround timing for European apple sawfly efficacy
  • Quassia as an alternative means of dealing with EAS
  • "Curculio understory management" techniques (see page 165) as a means of curtailing Surround coverage sooner
  • Pure neem oil's effectiveness (see pages 222-3) on the summer moth/apple maggot fly/sooty blotch/flyspeck conundrum
  • Entrust timing for Lepidoptera overlap throughout the summer months
  • Foliar calcium vs. ground uptake of calcium
  • Stylet oil for moth suppression and summer diseases
  • BD 501 (thinning effects on Fuji apples)
  • Pulsing agents to stimulate microbial digestion and nutrient uptake
GrowOrganicApples.com is a Holistic Orchard Network -- click for more Articles on Organic Orcharding more resources:
Organic Orcharding Articles

Ideally, we can connect with other holistic growers to trial such ideas. Just as every sustainable orchard site has its quirks, so does every growing season. Methods are indicated for long-term success all the more when different growers observe similar results. Having the discipline to follow through on ideas begun in spring makes all the difference. Mutual trials coordinated with network funding (please help us, apple eaters!) will allow us to write up research results worthy of scientific approval as well as pay for soil life testing and expert assistance in the process. Community orchardists and backyard fruit growers ultimately need to invest as well (became a member now!) in meaningful holistic research if we're to do amazing things as a growers' network.


Be inspired and keep in touch.

Holistic Orchard Research


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