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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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Holistic Orchard Research

Soil Health

Haphazard mulches that favor fungi along with plants like comfrey are a boon to apple feeder roots. Photo by Michael Phillips
Haphazard mulches that favor
fungi along with plants
like comfrey are a boon to
apple feeder roots.
Photo by Michael Phillips

On-farm fertility is far more important than many orchardists realize. True soil health has far more to do with biology than mere mineral availability. A "synthesis of place" occurs when microorganisms, biomass, grazing animals, and plant influences both direct and join in the chorus of the land. The nutrient balance presented to a "natural apple tree" creates fruit that is tastier. Soil quality ratings go up when fungal compost and woodsy mulches are applied in the orchard regularly. A healthy soil community in turn addresses vexing problems like disease susceptibility. Natural fertility based on healthy soil communities begets everything good that happens above.

"Everything in Nature is interdependent . . . everything!
I have to emphasize this again and again.
"
Rudolf Steiner

Emphasizing Soil Health from the Get-go

Mycorrhizal Support

Weigh in here with your experiences with mycorrhizal root dips at planting and other techniques you practice to specifically encourage "wood's edge ecology."

Handling orchard ground in 1914. Source: Productive Orcharding by Fred Sears.
Handling orchard ground in 1914. Source: Productive Orcharding by Fred Sears.

Bioassays

Soil Food Web testing that validates understory management choices truly gives us a heads-up on how to achieve long-lasting tree health.

  • Michelle and Chris McColl in Australia are tracking the soil life composition of four orchard systems (conventional, IPM, input-based organic, and their own soil-based organic). Kalangadoo Orchard sees improving fungal dominance with wheat straw mulch but has yet to achieve the complete range of microorganism interaction preferable for orchards.
Mycorrhizal Planet: How Fungi and Plants Work Together by Michael Phillips -- click for book summary. Image by Anne Stokes, www.annestokes.com Mycorrhizal Planet: How Fungi and Plants Work Together

Disease Resistance can be Abetted in Every Variety!

Soil health and natural fertility are what enable the apple tree to literally stand up to all comers in its environment. Those of you with "varietal proof" will go a long way towards convincing others of this core tenet of holistic living.

Understory Systems for High-Density Plantings

The basics of ramial woodchip mulching, Swiss Sandwich-style row management, and cover-cropping are described in Apple Grower . . . let's hear the specifics of your approach.

  • Read about the benefits of ramial chipped wood, defined primary as deciduous twigs less than 7 cm in diameter.

Life Density = Nutrient Density

Any and all studies that point to the nutritional attributes of fruit grown in a living soil need to be posted here.

Descartes -- click for Holistic Orchard Network Discussion Forum
Explore even more nuance in our grower discussion forum.

Support our Organic Apple Grower Network! Your involvement means we can do so much more!
Support our growers' network!
  • The nutrient content of fruits and vegetables has declined over the last half-century as a result of how food is grown. The Roots of Food Quality Symposium reviews these trends, identifies some root causes, and presents encouraging data showing that organic farming can enhance the concentrations of essential nutrients and antioxidants.
  • We're just coming to understand that "fungicides as usual" are particularly of consequence, regardless whether organically-approved or not. Fruits with higher levels of desirable antioxidants result from agricultural practices that allow plants to participate in resisting disease. This review on Elevating Antioxidant Levels in Food through Organic Farming and Food Processing covers intriguing ground.
  • Hard cider makers blending tannin-rich juice will be pleased to note that phenol levels in bittersharp and bittersweet apples are especially of interest to researchers on the antioxidant trail.
Spreading compost in Lost Nation Orchard. Photo by Michael Phillips.
Spreading compost in
Lost Nation Orchard.
Photo by Michael Phillips.

All Things Calcium

Let's hear about your trials with foliar calcium and ground calcium sources in curtailing bitter pit and improving fruit quality overall.

  • Conventional experts argue that multiple applications of spray calcium will improve fruit quality. Actually the opposite is true: Foliar calcium leads to an increase in fruit rots, as well as leaves that decompose more slowly. See the research conclusions as a pdf.

Orchard Compost

Well-aged, lignin-rich, fungally-dominated . . . please share the specifics that enhance orchard health via your compost pile.

Adapted illustration by John Bunker, FEDCO Trees -- click for Holistic Orchard Research home page

Every fruit grower has worthy contributions to make to these pages. . . so please contact Michael Phillips about your own orcharding research experiences, novel ideas, and success stories.

Holistic Orchard Research


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