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This research page is being written anew.

The Soil is Alive

REVISE 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.



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.


Orchard Compost

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



Holistic Insight #29b  Timing the application
of humus-rich compost till after the apple harvest
ties in sweetly with the fall feeder root flush taking
up nutrients to pop green buds in spring. 


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.
  • Gypsum 80% soil/ 20% foliar

Holistic Insight #134  Mycorrhizal inoculum applied to tree root systems at planting ensures a long, healthy life.

Disease Resistance for 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.

Row management for high-density

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.

  • 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.

Haphazard mulching


Suggestions for grassroots research

mycorrhizal jumpstart






Each day we see a new blessing in working with Nature instead of against it.
Neill Lindley

Hey, this works!

SPECIFY ANEW: Soil inspiration ties to disease resistance....

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

What's Next:
Resisting Disease

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