Solan: To acquaint apple growers about the latest techniques of orchard management, especially for farmers with smaller land holdings, Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, conducted a day visit for over 100 farmers on Saturday to showcase high density apple plantations here.
The university raised the plantations in 2016 and has been studying the performance of various varieties on M9 and MM106 type of rootstocks. High-density plantations of Jeromine, Red Velox, Red Cap Valtod, Scarlet Spur-II, Super Chief, Gale Gala, Redlum Gala and Auvil Early Fuji varieties of apples are being studied at this experimental farm.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Parvinder Kaushal, vice chancellor of the university said that the varsity was at the forefront of providing the latest knowhow to the farmers. “Research on high-density apple plantations at different altitudes is an effort to provide the apple growers the technical knowhow so that they can benefit from increased production through this method,” he said.
Being a high yielding method of raising apple plantation, in a high-density system the plant spacing i.e. 2.5 X 0.75 m (5333 plants/ha), 2.5 X 1.0 m (4000/plants/ha) and 2.5 X 1.5 m (2666 plants/ha) with plant training systems using Vertical Axis, Slender Spindle and Tall Spindle type of structures for obtaining the best results.
Dr JN Sharma, director research who is heading the high density plantation project at the university apprised the farmers of the results obtained from the experiments being conducted.
After a field visit, a farmer scientist interaction was also held where queries of the farmers were addressed. Farmers from clusters in Shimla, Sirmour, Mandi, Kullu, Kinnuar and Chamba chosen by the Project Control Unit of the HP HDP and officers of the Horticulture Department participated in the question and answer session.
“The University’s Department of Fruit Science has been conducting trials for development of Packages of Practices on high-density apple plantations under the World Bank funded HP HDP,” said Dr Kaushal.
The trials are being conducted in different agro climatic conditions at various research stations of the University including the main campus at Nauni to identify the suitable varieties and rootstocks along with ideal plant spacing and canopy management techniques and the results will be shared with the growers in the future,” he added.
What is high density plantations
High-density planting refer to the planting of higher number of plants per unit area than the convention system of plantings. Conventionally, standard apple plants raised on seedling rootstocks are planted at a spacing of 7.5 X 7.5 m with a planting density of 178 trees/ha and spur varieties on seedling rootstocks are planted at a spacing of 5.0 X 5.0 m with a planting density of 400 plants/ha. The average productivity of these orchards is approximately 6 to 8 MT/ ha, which is much below the productivity obtained in high-density orchards (40-60 MT/ ha).
In high density planting, apple plants on clonal rootstocks can be planted at 5333 plants/ha to increase the production per unit area basis and improves the quality of the produce. With the increasing pressure on land and reduction in average land holdings, shifting from low density planting systems to high density planting systems is need of the hour, as the trees in high density are more precocious, heavy yielders and produce better quality fruits. High-density orcharding can be done on flat and fertile lands with assured irrigation using dwarf/semi dwarf clonal rootstocks which can be trained to modern methods of canopy management viz., vertical axis, slender spindle and tall spindle etc. The technology is helpful in best utilization of land and resources and ease in orchard inter-culture operations, plant protection as well as harvesting and to obtain export quality of the produce.
Canopy management has paramount importance in high density planting to control vigour of the trees and harvest quality fruits. Training and pruning are two important horticultural practices of canopy architecture that plays significant role in quality fruit production. Generally, training of trees aims at more penetration of sunlight, support to main branches for desired tree architecture to increase the planting density and finally increasing the production. The training systems like tall spindle, vertical axes, slender-spindle, head and spread are recommended for high-density apple orchards. Under these training systems, branches are trained to horizontal positions/below horizontal, using cloth pins on 8-10 cm shoots and tying of branches during summer months. Pinching of shoots at 8-10 cm growth is carried out to develop the fruiting spurs and to check the growth of branches.