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Traverse City, Michigan, grower Leonard Ligon discusses how fruit and leaf buds protrude from a mechanically hedged branch on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, at the Michigan State University Clarksville station apple research block during an IFTA pre-conference tour. The conference and tours continues in Grand Rapids through Friday. <b>(Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Traverse City, Michigan, grower Leonard Ligon discusses how fruit and leaf buds protrude from a mechanically hedged branch on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, at the Michigan State University Clarksville station apple research block during an IFTA pre-conference tour. The conference and tours continues in Grand Rapids through Friday. (Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — Tours, wine tasting and receptions all were on tap today (Sunday) on Day 2 of the International Fruit Tree Association conference here.

IFTA conference logoTwo tour buses full of growers, researchers and consultants visited research plots of cherries and apples at Michigan State University’s Clarksville research station.

Schlopping through a little mud, Dr. Gregory Lang, plant physiologist, showed tour attendees a tented test block of NC-140 cherry training systems, which featured numerous varieties all on different rootstocks with different training systems.

Lang told the growers that each year, each different combination yielded different results, making it impossible so far for him to say which one worked best.

Harsh frosts in April 2012 and cold winters since then have thrown wrinkles into his work, he said.

Next door, growers checked out the results of mechanical hedging trials on a tall spindle apple block. Everywhere, tiny leaf and fruit buds emerged from branches, freshly cut close to the trunks by a mechanical hedger.

However, hedging is no replacement for hand pruning, researchers said; they still planned to send crews back into the block to clean out some of the thick, twiggy areas, and thicker branches.

Afterwards, the group ate lunch and tasted wines and apple ciders at Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery and returned in time for a reception at the Amway Grand Plaza hotel over a catered ice cream bar, which wrapped up just in time for the Super Bowl.