Nursery goes high-tech
Employees like the machine, and it has doubled worker productivity.
This machine carries five workers on seats through a block of nursery trees to remove suckers. The machine can be used without seats but with different attachments for spraying and weed control.
A nursery in Chile is using the latest equipment to cut the labor involved in growing the branched trees that growers want for good orchard establishment.
The Buenos Aires de Angol Nursery in Chile produces more than a million trees, of which more than 90 percent are apple and the rest cherries. Cherries are grown on contract. Both apple and cherry trees are two-year-old knip trees.
The trees are planted in the spring as bench grafts. The following spring, the tree is cut back at 60 to 65 centimeters (about 2 feet) above the ground. The top shoot grows to form the new leader, and the tip is sprayed weekly with benzyladenine to encourage branching. Ferdinand Vargas, technical advisor for the nursery, said the aim is to produce a well-branched tree between 1.8 and 2 meters (6 to 6.5 feet) tall.
"It's most important to sell trees with lateral shoots that are viable for the growers," Vargas told an international group of cherry industry people who visited the nursery recently. On most apple varieties, growers want five to seven lateral shoots. Cherry trees should have four to five, he said. Lapins is the most difficult variety to branch in the nursery. A cherry knip tree costs about U.S.$5.50, not including the rootstock royalty.
The nursery bought a multipurpose Italian machine with five small seats that workers can sit on as they go through the nursery working on the trees. It was the first of its kind to be used in Chile. Employees like the machine, said nursery owner Francisco Prat, and it has doubled worker productivity. It can also be used without seats, but with different attachments for spraying the lower parts of the trees with fungicides or for applying a herbicide. Prat estimated that such a machine could pay for itself within four years.
The company also has a harvesting machine that can dig 25,000 trees per day. Workers on a platform sort the trees by caliper and number of branches as they are harvested.
The Buenos Aires de Angol Nursery supplies trees throughout Chile. It is a member of the Andes Nursery Association in Chile and the International New Varieties Network. Cherry varieties developed in Summerland, British Columbia, Canada, are in demand, but most growers in the southern part of Chile's cherry growing region, where the nursery is located, are buying Regina trees, because it is a late variety and they want to avoid the peak production period, Vargas said. "We must go later into December or the beginning of January. That means late varieties like Regina and Sweetheart."
Vargas thinks the German variety Regina is a better variety because it's less prone to rain splitting, but Sweetheart is easier to grow because it's self-fertile. "When people learn to use a pollinizer, I think Regina will be the better one," he said. "Sweetheart is a very good variety, but it splits more than Regina and you may need a plastic cover, which is expensive."
Vargas believes Gisela 5 is the best rootstock choice for Regina. Other rootstocks in demand are Colt and F-12/1. The nursery does not use Maxima rootstocks