They have few problems with cankers developing at the wound, said Gayle Krahn, one of the company’s orchard managers. “Not enough to stop doing it,” she said.
Pruning is the company’s No. 1 technique for crop load management and they usually shoot for 8 to 10 tons per acre.
They cut back water shoots from mid to late June, right before harvest. Right after harvest, they top cut with chain saws on their vigorous blocks, looking for renewal cuts at the same time. They make renewal cuts in the lower parts of the trees in full dormancy.
They renew branches on a five- or six-year rotation starting after the first bearing year.
For their colder orchards, either farther north or at high elevation, they prune with a lighter touch to give themselves a cushion against winter bud kill.
Most of their trees are central leaders on Mazzard roots, though they have some V-trellises on Gisela.
The V-trellises have earned them a small bump in yield per acre over central leaders and also lead to more efficient helicopter drying and better spray coverage, said Craig Dalgliesh, another orchard manager.
The V-trellises also cause less picker fatigue and lead to quicker harvesting once the pickers, working in teams of two, get used to it.
They stub cut one-year wood uprights to 6 to 8 inches. “Doesn’t always look pretty, but we don’t sell trees,” Dalgliesh said. •
—by Ross Courtney