Rootstock Advice - EMLA 7 vs 111
August 10, 2019 10:10AM
Hi all,

Burnt out vegetable-grower turned orchardist here!

I'm in the process of deciding upon rootstock for my 5 acre orchard in Portland, OR.

Quick background: I'd like freestanding trees, and I'd like to keep them at 10-12' in height (fruit within reach standing on a 6-foot ladder). My soil is deep silt loam with fair drainage and my site is flat, moderately windy, and very rainy during the winter.

EMLA 111 sounds like a great option, and I don't mind waiting an extra year or two for fruit, but I'm worried that keeping the trees at 10-12' would induce way too many watersprouts and extra growth than I care to prune. Thoughts? There's a couple old apple trees already on the property that the previous owners maintained at 9' (no idea the rootstock), and the amount of watersprouts they produced this year is giving me nightmares. I can't prune 5 acres of that!

EMLA 7 sounds like a good, less vigorous option but I'm worried about the trees toppling over. My fear is that all goes well for years 1-5 and then 6+ years into the orchard we get a storm with strong winds and my orchard turns into a disaster zone overnight.

Any thoughts/experiences with these rootstocks would be much appreciated!

Thank you,
Adam Tedeschi
Portland, OR
Re: Rootstock Advice - EMLA 7 vs 111
August 10, 2019 10:50AM
Hi Adam,
I think you're spot in with your initial thoughts. MM111 and anything larger (B118, P18, Antonovka, etc) will be very hard to keep at 10-12' when planted at more traditional spacings. That said, myself and some others are playing with planting these larger rootstocks at tighter spacings in order to get some dwarfing through inter-tree competition. It looks to be working, but none of the plantings are more than a few years old. My personal orchard is made up of trees all planted 8x16 on MM111. M7 could be a good choice, but it is a leaner and suckers like crazy. A 4" post at each tree would keep them upright, but not force you to build a trellis. Ditto if you used one of the larger Geneva rootstocks. I don't how many trees you planned on planting, or the spacing you're considering, but I would probably try one of the larger rootstocks from above at a tighter spacing, don't over-fertilize, be patient, and get to fruiting in 4-5 years. When I worked in Minnesota, a different climate than Portland for sure, we had many acres of trees on M7 at 12x20. They didn't lean too much, and suckering was the bigger problem without a doubt. They stayed at 15' and were in no danger of outgrowing their space. In my current orchard (MM111, 8x16), I am not over-fertilizing the trees and encouraging a strong understory. So far the trees are not giving me any indication that they'll outgrow their space - they are already producing fruit after just 4 years! Not full crops, but enough to make me smile.

Mike Biltonen, Know Your Roots
Zone 5b in New York
Re: Rootstock Advice - EMLA 7 vs 111
August 10, 2019 03:00PM
EMLA 106 has been good for me. No suckering and they should top out in the 12-14' range. They should also produce sooner than the 111's. They do not need support, just don't use them in overly wet ground (collar rot)

good luck with your project, Pat

Brampton Lake Orchards

Zone 4a Upper Michigan
Re: Rootstock Advice - EMLA 7 vs 111
August 11, 2019 10:04AM
Thanks for the quick response Mike and Pat!

Mike - with the MM111 at 8' tree spacing, is the goal to develop semi-permanent scaffold branches or take a more high-density approach and prune any branches that are > 1/2 the diameter of the trunk and so encourage short-term fruiting branches?

I like the idea of a higher-than-usual density m111 system, and perhaps I'll carve out a small section and play around with 7' and 6' spacings as well just to see the different tree responses.

Thank you,
Adam Tedeschi
Portland, OR
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