A nursery tree after its first year in the orchard shows weaker growth than a sleeping eye because of transplant stress. The nursery tree, left, and the sleeping-eye tree in the photo to the right are the same age. The sleeping-eye tree, right, is at the
As sweet cherry growers around the world adopt higher density, more efficient orchard systems, they face increased financial burdens from orchard establishment. Most new cultivars and rootstocks have royalty fees, and quality nursery stock can cost more than $10 per tree. Assessments of the costs of establishing a high density sweet cherry orchard and forecasts of return on investment and breakeven price highlight the importance of tree costs in orchard profitability. As a result, there is interest in novel planting strategies to reduce establishment costs and improve profitability. The apple industry has experimented with planting bench grafts and sleeping eyes as less expensive alternatives to standard nursery trees. However, to date, no research has investigated the potential for such planting strategies in sweet cherry.
We initiated an investigation of the potential for adopting a sleeping eye planting system for sweet cherry, comparing tree survival and growth with standard nursery trees. Sleeping eyes are fall budded in the nursery and then dug and planted in the orchard the following spring. Nursery trees are fall budded but grown in the nursery for a year and dug the following fall, then planted in the orchard in the spring.
We utilized three rootstocks (Mazzard, MxM.60, and Gisela 6) and chip-budded (single bud) three cultivars (Bing, Chelan, and Tieton) on each rootstock genotype for a total of nine scion/rootstock combinations. The same person performed all budding in the first week of September 2005, at six to eight inches above the soil surface. To study the role of the common virus Prune dwarf virus on tree survival and growth, we also budded half of the tree with virus-free bud wood and half with virus-infected bud wood. One hundred buds were placed for each combination, creating a total of 1,800 trees (two planting systems, two virus statuses, three rootstocks, and three cultivars with ten five-tree replicates).
The sleeping eye trees were headed to about two inches above the dormant bud, harvested in March 2006, and shipped to the test orchard site at Washington State University’s Roza experimental farm in Prosser. Each tree was supported with a bamboo stake and plastic tree guard. The other half of the trees remained in place in the nursery row to complete the standard 18-month growth cycle as nursery trees.
Trees were trained similarly at both locations until late July when sleeping-eye trees were headed (at about 48 inches) to promote lateral branching. Nursery trees were headed only at harvest (at about 60 inches) for convenience in storage and shipping. Nursery trees were dug the first week of November 2006, and stored until April 2007, when they were planted in ten replications of five trees in an orchard immediately adjacent to the sleeping-eye trees that were established the previous spring. What follows is a preliminary assessment of tree survival and growth.
These differences may have been
• Lower costs of establishment versus greater tree losses
• Increased demand for management and care in first year versus the potential to implement specific training strategy in first (normally nursery) year
• Strong growth in second year because of no transplant stress
• Improved precocity?
• Higher establishment costs versus greater tree survival
• Nursery assumes risk of poor bud take
• Better growth in nursery
• Poorer growth in first orchard year than sleeping eye trees
Whiting, M.D., Lang, G., and Ophardt, D. 2005. Rootstock and training system affect sweet cherry growth, yield, and fruit quality. HortScience 40(3):582-586.
Warner, G. 1995. "Orchard-grown trees are cheaper, but riskier." Good Fruit Grower, Yakima, Wash. www.goodfruit. com/subscriber/archive/1995/44other.html.
Warner, G. 1996. "The pros and cons of a do-it-yourself nursery." Good Fruit Grower, Yakima, Wash. www.goodfruit. com/subscriber/archive/Feb_1-96/special 2.html.
Warner, G. 1998. "Price of sleeping eyes may be sleepless nights." Good Fruit Grower, Yakima, Wash. www.goodfruit. com/subscriber/archive/June98/feature7.
Warner, G. 2006a. "Feathered trees v. sleeping eyes." Good Fruit Grower. Vol. 57 no. 7. p 35. Yakima, Wash.
Warner, G. 2006b. "Grower finds trees a better bet than bench grafts." Good Fruit Grower. Vol. 57 no. 7. p 17. Yakima, Wash.
Warner, G. 2006c. "Sleeping eyes cut initial costs." Good Fruit Grower. Vol. 57 no. 7. p 14. Yakima, Wash.
Witney, G. 1998. "Practical Grower: Growers may save on nursery costs, but…." Good Fruit Grower, Yakima, Wash. www.goodfruit.com/subscriber/archive/ Dec-98/column3.html.