Narrow orchard systems for future climates (AS22002)

Map of Australia with Batlow location Batlow, New South Wales

Commercial demonstration block

Tingira Orchard

Batlow, New South Wales

Table 1: Twin cordon trial block details

WA 38 (marketed as Cosmic Crisp®)

Rootstock Nic 29
Tree spacing 2.4 metres
Row spacing 3 metres
Tree density

1388 trees/ha

Laterals spacing

8 upright laterals spaced at 30cm / tree

Stem density

11,111 stems / ha

Video 1: Heading young apple trees to establish a twin cordon system

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries) discusses with Jeremy Smart (Tingira Orchard) their orchard set up for the twin cordon system. Kevin demonstrates some initial pruning requirements for trees being planted in this block.

Kevin Dodds (NSW DPI) & Jeremy Smart (Tingira Orchard)
Video transcript

[Kevin] So I'm here in the Narrow Orchard System's planar cordon trial block that Jeremy Smart's gratefully agreed to put in for us.

So, G'day Jeremy.

[Jeremy] Howdy.

[Kevin] We're just these trees were planted just over a week ago and we're now back in the block looking at that initial cut to establish the two leaders that we need.

[Jeremy] So first we've got the variety Cosmic Crisp tree spacing 2.4 metres with a row space of three metres. These are on a Nic 29 rootstock, and then...

[Kevin] Excellent. And so the plan with our twin cordon, what are we looking at in terms of number of uprights and spacing?

[Jeremy] We're looking at a spacing of 30 centimetres between uprights. Yep. And I'm pretty sure each tree is to produce eight. Yep, that's correct. That equals your 2.4 metres.

[Kevin] Yep, so it's a real, we're really sort of stepping outside the comfort zone to see whether we can make this happen with the NIC 29 rootstock and COSMIC. So, we'll see how we go. I

[Jeremy] I think from memory that works out around the 11, 000 leaders to a hectare.

[Kevin] Okay, yep. Stems per hectare cool. Excellent.

All right, let's have a look at some of this sort of heading cut stuff that are some of the decisions we're having to make there.

With the trees that we've got to work with from the nursery here, there's a bit of a mixture between just straight up whips and some trees that have developed some feathers. So from tree to tree, there's some decision making to do about, you know, how we get, how we stimulate those two branches that we're looking forward to establish the cordon. So I'll start with a whip tree here and the recommendation we had from the people at PFA in New Zealand was that 50 centimetres was a good height to head at. So we've got a stick here marked with the 50 centimetre length and we're just tramping down that fresh planting soil to make sure it's settled and it's going to be, you know, reasonably representative of soil height.

So I put the stick against the whip. We've got really nice lateral buds here. So we've, this tree's a good candidate, we've got our 50cm mark, we'll just hit it there, and then we've got some really good strong buds from there down which we'll be able to choose from when they grow. So that's a single whip.

And then when we come across to the next tree here, it's a bit more complex, it's got some laterals out of the nursery, and there may not be buds along the main leader that we want to select, that we think would become the new leader. So what we've decided to do, and it's all a learning experience, and I'm sure there's always more than one way to do things, but there's our 50cm again, and you can see there's no lateral buds in here, they've all shot to form branches, but these have got very weak buds on them.

So rather than try and work with those, we've decided to, to cut it out 50cm and then we're going to just stump these back a little bit and make sure there's a bud or two there and we'll do that for the top couple and there again and maybe one more below that and then we'll take the rest of those feathers off, just to clean it up.

So we'll be looking to get our two leaders somewhere from in here and we don't know what to expect yet but we're choosing these hoping that those buds will become the options for us. Thankfully, the single whips are the more common ones in here, so we've got a good little trial within a trial to have a look at what happens with this situation.

Video 2: Removing unwanted shoots post-heading

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries) looks at selecting shoots to establish the first two main leaders of the eight leader cordon trees.

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries)
Video transcript

Hi everybody, we're back in the Batlow planar cordon apple block, demonstration block for the Narrow Orchard Systems project. We're now at about six weeks post planting, I think, and we're starting to get a bit of growth on these trees after we headed them, and it's time to start selecting some shoots.

What we're planning to do here is to establish two main leaders, which are going to become our cordon of which we'll have our eight uprights per tree. So, today's activity is going to be to go through and have a look at what shoots are arising from the tree below where we headed and start selecting some. And our plan is to probably at this stage, leave the top four shoots and we'll see which ones of those dominate. And then we'll come back again and make a final selection of our two that we want to grow out to about 1. 2 metres each to get our 2.4 metres cordon length for the two. We headed these trees at about 50 centimetres above soil level, and subsequent to that Jeremy's put out some fertiliser. He's had some MAP and some calcium nitrate, followed up with some nice rainfall and of course the irrigation's on now. And the result is we're starting to get some really good shoot growth here. Yeah, starting to get some confidence that we're going to get the leader lengths that we need to establish the cordons. And to help that along we're going to take some of these, or all these lower ones off so that all of the energy of the tree is being directed into those upper shoots, and then we'll make our final selection probably in a few weeks time when we see which ones look like they're going to be the best ones to form the cordons.

So, this is one of our trees that was basically a single whip when we planted it. It had really nice buds, lateral buds on the whip. below that 50 centimetre head cut and you can see it's responded really quite well and fairly evenly. A little bit later we'll have a look at one of the ones which was already feathered when we planted it, and the growth response is a bit different. But the plan here is to basically, at this stage we're looking to retain probably around the top four shoots as our potential cordons and we'll bring that down to two, once we know which two are dominant and in the strongest position. But for now, we'll just move the tree guard so that we can get at these lower shoots and basically just thumb those off, a little bit fiddly, but they just come straight out and then we've got one, two, three, four, take that one, and that's what we'll leave at this stage, those four at the top.

I suspect it's going to be these top two that we'll keep, but we're having a little bit of insurance down here because one theory is that these top ones can be a little bit prone to snapping out when you lay the leaders down, so we just want to give ourselves a little bit of insurance to think about that over the next couple of weeks and just see how that growth comes out.

Here's one of our trees that we had that were actually already feathered out of the nursery, which we had to, you know, just trim back to some of these existing feathers and see what response we got. We're getting some, nowhere near as much growth as we got out of the whips of course, but we are getting a response out of some of these buds and it's still probably not quite clear which ones are going to be the best to select here but there's plenty going on up here amongst these whips, sorry, these feathers. So, there's still no issue with removing this stuff down here because we've got lots that we can use to select from up the top. So, with these I'll probably just take away this low stuff, probably up to about here, and I'm sure there'll be something in here that we can work with for our cordons down the track.

One of the other things that Jeremy's done here when he put this low wire in for support of the trees and also for the irrigation pipe he's got one of his staff to go through and apply these tree clips, because I think it's pretty important already to make sure that these trees are in the right position and in that vertical position from the start.

Basically these, we'll use these to clip onto the wire here and to position the tree in a vertical position like that and holds it reasonably secure in place where we want it.

So we've got the first couple of rows done here for just the initial selection of leaders down to about three or four per tree and they're starting to look a lot tidier and we've got some good options here for the next pass through and we'll make that final selection of which two are going to be our cordons. They look great especially on these on these whip trees that didn't have any laterals when we planted them. The buds were nice and strong and they've responded well. There's one of our feathered trees. You can see there's a couple of little branches that were there from the previous season out of the nursery. Even those, they're putting out some good shoots. I don't think we'll have any troubles selecting something from those.

So yeah, it's coming along quite nicely.

Video 3: Cordon shoot selection and initial training

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries) and Jeremy Smart (Tingira Orchard) select shoots and train them for the cordon trellising system.

Kevin Dodds (NSW DPI) & Jeremy Smart (Tingira Orchard)
Video transcript

[Kevin] We're back in the planar cordon apple block at Batlow for the Narrow Orchard Systems project, and today's activity is putting the strings in so that we've got something to attach our two leaders, which are going to become our cordons, attach them to. So, we'll just show you what we're doing in that step of getting this set up.

Righty oh. So, Jeremy's got some what is this, hessian twine?

[Jeremy] Jute twine.

[Kevin] Jute twine. And for length we've worked out we need roughly two wingspans, two human wingspans worth. So fold that in half, find the centre and then Jeremy's going to attach that centre point to the space between the clip so it's, you know, held in place roughly. And just following some instructions or guidelines that we got from our Kiwi friends. We're working on a V up the wires roughly with a 30 degree spacing between the twine, which is where we want to run our verticals while they, they get the length that we need. And if we go up three wires, that gets us to roughly our 1.2 metres, which is going to be our cordon length. So, once we reach that top wire, where Jeremy's tying off the string there, that's once we reach that height our cordons should be long enough to then lay down. So, our hope is that by the end of this growing season we'll have reached that top knot there and we'll be ready to move on to the next step of setting up this new canopy system.

[Jeremy] Now I always explain it as over to the left, over through to the middle.

[Kevin] Yep. And in theory that going from one side to the other with that knot stops or reduces the amount of slide that you get along the wire because we want these to stay in that 30 degree position 30 degrees apart. You could possibly, if you're worried about sliding, you could even go one more back on the other side. But these seem to be holding pretty well.

[Jeremy] Finish off with an extra hitch.

[Kevin] Yep. And what we might do now is just have a look at how we're doing some of the initial Attaching of the early shoots to the string using the tape in the gun. You can, oh. Alright. So, on our last video we showed that we were actually keeping more than two shoots so that we could see what was going to happen with the growth.

[Kevin] And some of the advice that we've received from people that have done this in the past is that the top shoots have more of a propensity to snap out when you start doing things with them, or go to lay them down. So, at this step where we're just, you know, tying our leaders to the string, we're making a decision and choosing the two that we're going to move forward with and so one of these two at the top, Jeremy's picked the easy one which is coming off down below. So that's now attached with the tape now, and it works.

[Jeremy and Kevin] Out of staples Kevin, out of staples. Doesn't it always happen? Technology. Is that where we left off? Yes, let's pick up where we left off. I don't think we need to explain how you use a tape me gun. Most people would have seen it before. They're pretty self explanatory but they basically just use a bit of plastic tape to hold the tree in place with a staple and that's just enough to keep our shoots going on the straight and narrow if you like. And so we've got that third shoot at the back that we're no longer going to need so we'll take that out. I'm happy with that. And that's, actually snip them out? Yeah, it's up to you. I've been thumbing them off because, you know, we don't want it to regrow, so we don't want to leave any. We're probably good to get those in as well. Yeah, you can tidy that little shoot up. And yeah, because this was one of our, this was one of our feathered trees. And it's turned out quite good. So that bud, that shoots come off that, which is actually stronger than the one that's come off the top. Yeah, so that's not bad. That comes with learning. So yeah, that's where we're up to.

There's a nice specimen.

Video 4: Update on Cordon growth

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries) provides an update on the planar cordon demonstration block

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries)
Video transcript

Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Batlow planar cordon Apple demonstration block, which is part of the Narrow Orchard System's, the Future Climates project. It's been about three months since our last video, which was just prior to Christmas, and there hasn't been a lot happening in the block as far as operations go over that three month period. It's predominantly been about maximizing the growth of the trees, with a little bit of tree training along the way just to keep them going where we want them for now. But now that we're sort of into, well into autumn, growth is probably starting to just slow down a little bit now. We are starting to look at the next phase which will be where the leaders are long enough to lay down those leaders to form the cordons.

So we're starting to look at a bit of that now. Also having a bit of a play with the training system that we'll use for the verticals next spring when they start to come on. So, just over the next few minutes I'll I'd like to share with you where we're up to, show you the block, and talk a little bit about what we're doing to try and keep these growing for now, and next steps.

So over the last few months just through the growing season, the only real operation here after we re laid out our initial strings with our angle that we wanted, it was just to keep running those chutes up those strings. And I think it's been two, two, maybe three passes through here with a tapener gun, just to apply some of this tape and keep the chutes on line with the angle that we wanted.

So as I was saying, the last three month period, sort of, from Christmas till now, towards the end of March have been about getting these to grow as best as we could. Keeping them growing so that we could get the length that we need in these verticals to then lay down and have the right cordon length.

Some of the trees have made it. Some are not going to make it this season and we'll have to just continue trying to grow those on next spring. I'm standing in front of a particularly good specimen here, where I think we've got about 1.35 metres of vertical growth, which will be 1.35 metres of cordon when we lay them down. And being, you know, somewhere between these two wires is where we wanted them, and we know that they've got enough length now. So that's an example of one that's made it and we don't need to do too much to that now, but we'll probably be here before these harden off too much for winter and put them down into that Cordon position, which will be another video.

So moving along, here's one that's not quite reach that height that we want. It's still growing and we're going to leave that alone and keep the water and nutrition up to it through the last bit of March and into April and see if we can't get the length that we need on those. And there's quite a few at that height which are almost there. And then we have some like these where one, one of the leaders is quite close to where we want to be and one is not quite down and needs to grow on a fair bit before it'll reach the height. So what we've done there, and you can see in the background and I've got one behind me, we've taken the leader that has made the height that we're looking for and partially laid it down for now to take some of its apical dominance away and hopefully drive some late season growth into the remaining verticals. So that's just a temporary measure. That's not the final position of those cordons at all. They're too upright at the moment, so they'll come down quite a bit further once we see if we can get the growth into that other vertical. And if not, they'll be laid down this winter anyway, those ones that have made length.

So there's a few of those. I've been through the block today and selected those that needed to be trained down to give that other vertical a chance to grow, grow on with the remaining growing season. There's another one there. And yeah, I'm hopeful we'll come back as I said, with a bit, bit of nutrition maintained and a bit of you know, good watering over the next month. We might be able to capture some late season growth on these and get close to our final height. But overall the blocks looking good. There will be some trees, as I say, that we have to deal with getting the Cordon length right next spring. But, you know, that was always going to be the case with the variable stock that we had from the nursery. But all in all it's going quite good.

Interestingly, back in, at the end of December, our last video, at that time, Jeremy and I noticed that there were a number of our verticals that were terminating at that stage, and we were very concerned that the trees looked like they might have been going to park up.

Anyway, as it turned out, with a bit of rainfall and again, continued irrigations and fertilizers, they, those buds that were terminating fired up again, and we've ended up with quite a reasonable growth across the block. And it's only just now that we're starting to end of March that we're starting to see some buds starting to terminate once again.

So that's it for our update on the Plannar Cordon block at Batlow. The next video will be very much on the the process of laying down the leaders to make the cordons and by then we'll have consolidated our thoughts on the vertical

Video 5: Laying down leaders to form cordons

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries) provides an update on the planar cordon demonstration block

Kevin Dodds (New South Wales Department of Primary industries)
Video transcript

Welcome back everybody. I'm here in the planar cordon demo block at Batlow once again. It's 3rd of May, 2024, end of our first growing season, and before these trees get too hard in position or lignified in here laying down those leaders that made the right length to become cordons, and, yeah, getting them down into position before that becomes too hard and there's increased risk of snapping out.

So one of the things I wanted to point out on the last video, in an attempt to get some of the lagging leaders to grow that little bit more, so that we could lay those down, we did some partial laying down of one of the leaders in the pair, and for some trees that's actually worked. We've actually got probably another 10 centimetres of growth on the one that was lagging behind and we're now able to lay those down, but it's only a percentage, a small percentage of those. A lot of the trees that were below that wire that we were aiming for even sort of partially laying down that one cordon wasn't enough to spur that other remaining cordon. But we do have some good examples and I'll just pan around here and we'll have a look at one just behind me.

So that, that cordon or that chute there has now passed that wire sufficiently for it to be long enough to lay down and the one that we partially lay down now will lay it down completely.

There's our tree laid down ready for winter. Trying to aim for a fairly gradual angle here, not too sharp an angle. So, we'll see how these go. We don't want these angles here to be too tight, otherwise we may get excessive growth at those points instead of further out along the cordon where we want them later on.

This is just a partial lay or partial initial lay down to get this set for winter. We're just using one clip at the moment there to roughly hold it in the right spot and then once we've got our training system in place, whether it's bamboo or string or whatever we're going to use, we'll come and consolidate that tie down, but I'm not expecting these to attempt to grow now. They'll go dormant in that position and hopefully set a nice, a nice angle for our, our twin leader cordon.

So it is a bit of a mixed bag in here for trees that are, have grown enough to be laid down and trees that haven't. I'll just do a little bit of a walk down the middle section of the block here to give you an impression of where we're at. So, we've still got some like this one which haven't made it and we'll have to think about what's the best way to manage those to finish them off in next spring. One suggestion is that we just spread that angle a little bit more now in preparation for next season and then try and grow them on. Another suggestion has been to actually cut back and start again. We haven't made that decision yet. A little bit more consultation to happen before we decide what's the best way forward.

Anyway, moving along, a few more. Good section here. There's quite a few we've got side by side, and as you can see, some of these have overlapped where they meet, which means we've got some flexibility there. We'll need to do some pruning to work out where we want our uprights and how far we want these to come across. This one that's kind of just, just touching. Here's one of our partially laid down trees from last video where the leader really didn't put in any more growth. I think it might have actually been terminated already and it's just stopped, hasn't even made that next wire. So, we can lay this one down completely now and set that angle and this one we'll have to think about what we're going to do with these ones for next season to either grow them on or replace them.

Here's a fairly good section where we've got reasonably consistent growth on a number of trees in this part of the block, and they've all made enough length to lay them down. As you can see there's some differences in the angle of these at the moment, but it's really, this pass is about setting that angle back there. We'll be able to manipulate the ends of these a little bit more, probably sometime in winter, when we work out how we're going to tether those. Still decisions to be made there.

Just a quick update today everyone, just to show you what we're doing with setting these cordons temporarily in the right position until we work out the rest of the system for the uprights and then we'll come back and tether them more securely. But for now, I just wanted to show you that first step of getting them down and setting that angle.

Stay tuned for our next video where we'll, hopefully we'll have made some decisions about the training system for the uprights and we can, we can share with you where we're up to with that.

Thanks for tuning in. Bye for now.


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Narrow orchard systems for future climates is funded through Frontiers developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Agriculture Victoria, NSW Department of Primary Industries, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA, University of Queensland and Plant and Food Research New Zealand and contributions from the Australian Government.

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