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Alternate bearing

Posted by Zea Sonnabend 
Alternate bearing
May 08, 2017 01:42AM
We have been trying to correct the alternate bearing tendency that some varieties are prone to when they over crop, aren't pruned enough, or are neglected. We have been doing this by vigorous pruning, heavy thinning in the "on" year, and foliar sprays with humid and folic acids with seaweed and fish to try to build strength for next year's buds during the summer.

I am happy to report that after 3 years we can say it has been fairly successful on the Newtown Pippins and Empire. These are 40+ yr. old trees on standard roots. Both of these have a good fruit set this year in what should be the down year. It appears not to have worked so well on our Fujis, which don't have such a good crop.

I am wondering about other varieties that are notorious alternate bearers and if any of you have experience with getting them to even out?

Fruitilicious Farm
Zone 9b in California



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/11/2017 09:29AM by Michael Phillips.
Re: Alternate bearing
May 08, 2017 02:32PM
Interestingly, there are opposing theories on this...
For my part, I read that heavy pruning on the "off" year was better to reestablish a yearly fruiting habit for trees that had a heavy alternating habit. And doing this did work for me (at least partly) on a number of trees...

The hypothesis behind is that it is on the second year that fruit buds are formed. So if you prune heavily on the "off" year, you will get more growth on that year, then the following year (the "on" year), there will be formation of fruit buds on the preceding year's growth, that will produce on the following "off" year.

But really, I am not entirely convinced... I think regular pruning will encourage regular growth and regular production more than anything else... Naturally, some external factors like weather may change things - like no crop a year due to freeze will certainly induce a bumber crop the following year.
Claude

Jolicoeur Orchard
Zone 4 in Quebec
Re: Alternate bearing
May 10, 2017 10:59AM
Sweet Sixteen, Red Gravenstein, Gala, Goldrush, and Paulared have strong biennial tendencies here.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire
Re: Alternate bearing
May 11, 2017 06:26PM
That's interesting because Gala, Goldrush, and Paulared especially are very annual when thinned properly. I haven't grown Sweet 16 much since I left Minnesota in 1999, And what's a Red Graventsein?

Mike Biltonen, Know Your Roots
Zone 5b in New York
Re: Alternate bearing
May 11, 2017 09:09PM
Agreed. If you don't thin these varieties aggressively, they go biennial. Which is what I think Zea asked growers to share. Join in you unlettered disciples of Pomona.

Red Grav is a sport mutation of the Gravenstein of Austrian fame. It does particularly well in northern reaches across to Nova Scotia.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire
Re: Alternate bearing
May 12, 2017 01:28AM
Our Galas are our most regular cropping variety, along with Granny Smith. We have to thin them very aggressively to get any size on them and that probably helps.

Partly what I was getting at in starting this thread is that building the nutrition for the future buds in the summer and fall by foliar sprays seems to be equally if not more important than all the thinning and pruning. It is so very interesting how different varieties behave under the same culture and in different regions.

Fruitilicious Farm
Zone 9b in California
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