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Orchard manager Jorge Suarez (left) explains the Ebro training system to Carlos Chavez.

Orchard manager Jorge Suarez (left) explains the Ebro training system to Carlos Chavez.

International Fruit Tree Association members saw a variety of apple tree training systems, ranging from simple to sophisticated, during their tour last summer to the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Jorge Suarez, manager of an orchard in the Guerrero district, showed the group a Golden Delicious block trained on an Ebro trellis, that he said can produce 85 bins per acre and 85 to 90 percent premium quality fruit.

The tree canopy is developed in four layers, with six horizontal wires running along each of the four tiers. It took 60 kilometers of wire per hectare (15 miles per acre) to build the trellis, which is constructed in uninterrupted rows 360 meters (almost 1,200 feet) long. The trees are spaced 2 meters (6.5 feet) apart with 4 meters (13 feet) between rows. Suarez said the lowest layer is the least productive, while the third and top layers are the most productive because of the greater light interception.

Bloom begins first in the upper layer and progresses down the canopy. This complicates the chemical thinning program because fruitlets are larger in the top of the trees than in the bottom.

Suarez summer prunes to remove vertical growth in an effort to keep the canopy layers horizontal. Workers remove the hail net just before harvest, using long poles.

The orchard is owned by Mexican attorney Federico Hagelsieb.

Impressed

IFTA tour members were impressed with the orchard of Leonel Comaduran, which is also in the Guerrero district. They saw 12-year-old freestanding Golden Delicious trees on Malling 106 rootstocks. The planting is on a 2.5- by 4.8-meter (about 8- by 16-foot) spacing and produces about 35 to 40 bins per acre.

Bruce Currie of British Columbia, Canada, commented that Comaduran had done a beautiful job of keeping the trees in balance by removing overly vigorous branches. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s tight spacing or wide spacing, you have to have balance in the tree.”

Larry Lutz of Nova Scotia, Canada, said the orchard was one of the most impressive the group had seen in Mexico. “You obviously have a good understanding of the tree,” he told the grower.

Comaduran has 21 hectares (52 acres) of orchard of which 80 percent are Golden Delicious and 20 percent Red Delicious. The elevation is 6,666 feet. Trees in the Guerrero region bloom about a week to ten days later than in the lower-elevation Cuauhtémoc region, and Mexican growers compare it to the Lake Chelan area of Washington.

Comaduran said that in future plantings, he would use dwarfing rootstocks and plant the trees closer together. He has a small nursery in addition to his orchard and is evaluating some of the new Geneva rootstocks.