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HIGH DENSITY ORCHARDING INTRODUCTION

WHAT IS HIGH DENSITY ORCHARDING?


High density means to increase the plant population per unit area for increasing the production of fruit crops.Planting of fruit trees rather at a closer spacing than the recommended one using certain special techniques with the sole objective of obtaining maximum productivity per unit area without sacrificing quality is often referred as 'High density planting' or HDP. Before taking up the actual planting it is necessary to decide the ideal number of plants per unit area to obtain a profitable and efficient use of land.Tree density is one of the most important factors that influences the production of fruit in an orchard - particularly in its early years. Many studies with various varieties and rootstocks have shown that increasing tree densities will result in earlier production of fruits and increased yields. This is because higher tree densities result in a closed canopy and higher light interception earlier in the life of the orchard when compared with low densities.The relationship between yield and density does not remain linear however. Whilst cumulative yields can double in going from low to high density plantings, the move to very high and ultra high density results in a less significant increase in yields.Often these increases do not justify the additional costs of establishment. BalkhovenBaart et al. (2000) demonstrated this in apples where moving from 6000 trees/ha to 10000 trees/ha gave an increase in fruit production of 15%. This is compared to the 40% increase from 3000 trees/ha to 6000 trees/ha. The classification of what constitutes a high density orchard varies between production regions. For the purpose of this site densities are defined as follows; Low density = <1000 trees/ha Moderate density = 1000-2500 trees/ha High density = 2500-4000 trees/ha Very high density = 5000-8000 trees/ha

Ultra high density = > 8000 trees/ha

WHAT IS THE OPTIMUM TREE DENSITY? There are a number of factors that will determine the optimal tree density for an intensive fruit orchard. Fundamentally within row spacing (and therefore tree density) needs to be calculated based on the vigour of the scion variety and rootstock and the soil quality. Where the combination of rootstock x scion variety x soil results in vigorous growth it is best to look at wider spacings and therefore lower densities. Where there is access to more dwarfing rootstocks planting distances can be reduced (increasing tree density). The decision about planting density is also largely dependant on economic considerations such as establishment costs and likely returns. CHARACTERISTICS OF HDP The trees of HDP should have maximum number of fruiting branches and minimum number of structural branches. The trees are generally trained with a central leader surrounded by nearly horizontal fruiting branches These branches should be so arranged and pruned in such a way that each branch casts a minimum amount of shade on other branches. The height should be one and half its diameter at the base. A key to successful HDP depends upon the control of tree size. METHODS TO ACHIEVE HDP 1. Use of size controlling root stocks. In apple, dwarfing root stocks and intermediate stocks like MM 106, MM 109, and MM 111 are used to control the size of the plant. In pears, Quince A, Adam and Quince-C are commonly used as dwarfing root stocks. 2. Use of spur type scions - In temperate fruit crops like apple, the cultivars can be classified into a spur type or non-spur type. The spur types which have restricted annual growth are alone suitable for HDP. 3. Training and pruning methods to induce dwarfness - under Indian conditions, apple trees trained under spindle bush, dwarf pyramid, cordon

systems are found to contain the growth of the trees appreciably for HDP systems. 4. Mechanical device and use of chemicals to control size Growth regulators such as daminozide, ethephon, chlormaquat and paclobutrazal are extensively used to reduce shoot growth. 5. Besides chemical manipulation, mechanical devices employing the use of spreaders and tying down the branches to make them grow from near horizontal to an angle of 45 from the main stem are also some of the standard practices to control tree size.

PLANTING SYSTEMS FOR HDP


Some of the systems that are utilised around the world will be briefly described. Systems derived from central leader-conical or pyramidal shaped trees Double leader systems-single trees with two leaders (simulating higher densities) Palmette systems-basically central leader trees with scaffolds in the plane of the row only V/Y systems- inclined canopies that improve light interception Hedge row system Meadow orcharding

SYSTEMS DERIVED FROM CENTRAL LEADER:

Spindle
The spindle system is generally suited to densities up to 2000 trees/ha and have a height of 2-3m. The planting distance is usally 3-5m x 1-2m depending on rootstock vigour. At planting, the leader is not headed and a number of laterals are selected to form part of the permanent scaffolds in the bottom of the tree. Competing laterals that develop on the leader are removed early. As the leader grows more scaffolds are selected and spaced equally. Leader dominance is important and if lost will result in a reduced tree canopy. If it becomes too strong, lateral growth and development will be reduced. Spindle

systems can be free standing, but mostly ustilise some form of support (2-3 wire trellis).

Vertical Axis
The vertical axis is similar to the spindle and it is often hard to distinguish the difference, except that the vertical axis does not have permanent scaffolds. This system suits densities between 1000-2500 trees/ha with a spacing of 4-5m x 1-2m . Height can reach up to 3m. These systems are best planted with well feathered nursery trees. A central leader (axis) is developed with 'weak' (small diameter) fruiting branches arising around the leader. The leader is not headed back in the first few years of this system to ensure that weak fruiting branches are developed. These fruiting branches are systematically renewed to prevent them becoming premanent scaffolds .Support of a multi wire trellis is required for these systems.

Slender Spindle
The slender spindle system involves more severe pruning than the vertical axis and is suited to densities of 2000-5000 trees/ha. The planting distance is 3.5m x 1-1.5m and tree height is usually restricted to 2-3m. Well feathered nursery trees are preferred for planting the slender spindle system.

Super Spindle
The super spindle system is utilised for super high density orchards on weaker rootstocks such as Quince C. These systems have densities of greater than 4000 trees/ha. Planting distance is usually <3m x <0.8m and tree height is 23m.The main concept of super spindle orchards is to have closely spaced compact trees with short fruiting wood or spurs evenly spaced along the central leader. These systems require a multi wire support.

DOUBLE LEADER SYSTEMS


Double leader systems are trained with the aim of achieving high leader densities whilst keeping tree numbers (and cost) down. Trees are usually

planted at approximately 3-4m x 1-1.2m equalling a tree density of around 3000 trees/ha. However, the development of double leaders mean that the leader density is 6000 trees/ha. One such double leader system is the Bibaum system.

Bibaum system
This system was developed in Italy and involves planting specially developed nursery trees that have 2 leaders (or axes). Trees are split at 25cm above the ground into two equally strong leaders (Musacchi 2008). This system is usually planted at 3.3m x 1-1.25m in a single row. Leaders are trained parallel to the row and are spaced at 50-60cm apart.Relatively weak fruiting branches are developed on each leader.

PALMETTE SYSTEM
The palmette system and its variations are generally limited to wide within row spacings (>2.0-2.5m) and by a taller tree giving a medium planting density of 700-1500 trees/ha. There are a number of different kinds of palmette training but all generally comprise of a central leader with scaffolds in the plane of the row only. Tiers of scaffolds are chosen as the leader grows each season and are tied to wires to reduce vigour and promote spurring. The palmette is considered a traditional system, however it is still used widely in areas where the environment, species or the cultivar/rootstock combinations are conducive to vigorous growth.

V/Y SYSTEMS
There are various V or Y shaped orchard systems used in pear production. Y shaped systems have trees with a vertical trunk and two opposing arms of the tree trained to either side of the trellis and are in single rows. V shaped systems have alternating trees leaned to one side of the trellis and can be double or single rows. Two of the main systems used for pear production are the V Hedge and Open Tatura Trellis.

V- Hedge
The V hedge system is widely used in the Netherlands and Belgium and is a variation of a Y shaped system. It is a single row system with a planting distance is 3.5m x 1.25m equalling approximately 2000 trees/ha.These systems are planted using well feathered two year old nursery trees. Four feathers are kept as fruiting branches and considered as four central leaders on one stem. Tree height is maintained at 2m with an opening of the V of 1.4m. Often each 'leader' is supported by bamboo stakes.

Open Tatura Trellis


The Open Tatura trellis is a modification of the original Tatura Trellis developed in Australia. The Open Tatura Trellis consists of two rows of trees (separated by approximately 0.5m) that are planted alternately in a V trellis. It is generally planted 4-4.5m x 0.5-1m to give a density of about 2000-5000 trees/ha. Trees can be trained in a number of different ways in this system. The most common are the Open Tatura with double leaders which involves training each tree with two leaders (approximately 1 m apart). The Open Tatura with single leader which is similar to planting a slender spindle system. The Open Tatura with cordon which allows for a moderatly dense orchard of around 2000 trees/ha with approximately 8000 fruiting units growing up the wires. Nursery trees (usually whips) are bent over at planting and trained to the horizontal.Fruiting units are encouraged at regular intervals along the trunk and can be renewed regularly.

HEDGE ROW SYSTEMS


Very popular in recent years. Trees are planted 1-2m apart in rows. Plant-plant distance can be reduced to 50cm. In the row. Number of trees are 2500-10,000 plants/ha. Solid walls of fruit bearing surface is developed like hedge with sufficient space between rows to get implements and harvest through machine in the orchard. Tree walls/row direction should be from N-S so tht light is equally available on both sides of the wall. The lateral growth of the trees is controlled by a hedge-trimmer combined with use of a growth retardant. The

trees can be planted either in sinle row or double or multiple rows. The major advantage of single row design is an improved light distribution within the canopy which is desirable for good quality fruit with easy orchard management practices.

MEADOW ORCHARING
It is a super intensive or ultra-high density planting system in which the fruit plants are grown at a density of 20,000-1,00,000 plants/ha. More particularly the use of this word is mainly because the tree top is trained and pruned mechanically similar to mowing of a grassland. This system is designed to produce fruits on 2yr old plants which are chemically treated to maintain a small low height framework. In Apple,plants are induced to form fruit buds in 1st yr by growth regulator treatment. In the 2nd yr pants flower and produce fruits after which they are cut back to stump with some type of combine harvester which will separate fruits from shoots.