Thierry Ligonniere shows Neal Manly of Washington State, the high numbers of feathers on this knip tree.
Unlike their counterparts in the United States, French growers commonly use knip trees when planting new orchards as a way to bring orchards quickly into production.
The Davodeau-Ligonniere Nursery produces about 650,000 knip trees out of about 1 million trees produced annually, said Thierry Ligonniere, D.L. Nursery sales manager. The majority of their tree sales are in France, however, 40 percent of the trees are sold outside of the country.
The knip tree, called knip-boom in some parts of the world, originated in the Netherlands and is grown for its high placement and high number of feathers. Knip trees, first popular in Italy where they are used almost exclusively, are becoming more popular in France. Growers in France are looking for ways to bring trees into production earlier as well as avoid expensive tree training.
With a well-developed root system, knip trees have a lot of horsepower when they are planted.
At D.L. Nursery, knip trees are brought into the nursery warehouse and graded according to the number of feathers. Eight or more feathers are the top grade, with six to seven feathers also considered a high-feathered tree. In 2008, Ligonniere said that the nursery had 70 to 80 percent graded as high feathers.
"There isn’t much price difference between a knip tree and a standard tree," Ligonniere said, noting that the difference is about .50 euro, equal to about $0.70 U.S.
But although there is a strong demand for knip trees in Europe, only a handful of apple growers in the United States are planting them. The trees, which cost about $1 more than a normal budded tree in the United States, are more expensive for a nursery to maintain. Moreover, they require the grower to make a variety decision eight to ten months earlier than when using a normal budded tree.
Willow Drive Nursery in Ephrata, Washington, one of the few U.S. nurseries to grow knip trees on a regular basis, will produce between 30,000 to 35,000 knip trees for 2009.
C & O Nursery in Wenatchee, Washington, has produced knip trees in the past but is not currently growing any. They occasionally get requests from growers, but the grower interest is sporadic, said Dick Snyder, adding that a Wenatchee grower recently planted a block of knip trees.
Pete Van Well, Sr., Van Well Nursery, Wenatchee, said that they haven’t received any requests for knip trees, although they have grown some in the past just for the experience.
Gold Crown Nursery, Quincy, Washington, plans to deliver 35,000 knip trees in 2009, expanding to 160,000 in 2010.