skip to Main Content
Safj Hortgro Technical Orchard Systems 04
June / July 2023

A century of orchard systems

SA Fruit Journal: June / July 2023

How continuous innovation has allowed pome-fruit growers to increase yields by an order of magnitude. By Anna Mouton

The story of South African pome-fruit orchards has an unchanging question at its core: how can growers optimise light interception and distribution to maximise fruit yields and quality per unit input cost?

Finding answers has led our industry on a winding path from unruly open-vase giants to trained-and-trellised spindles – with plenty of detours along the way.

The open-vase era

Open-vase trees are shaped by heading the tree at knee height after planting and allowing lateral scaffold branches to develop. Tertiary and quaternary branching follows to form a large complex canopy.

Harry Pickstone was already advising fruit growers to adopt the open-vase system by the late 1800s, and it remained the default until the 1960s. The trees were planted 22 x 22 feet – about 7 x 7 m. Density was approximately 220 trees p/ha.

Horticultural adviser Peter Dall recalls encountering open-vase orchards in the 1960s when working at Graymead during his school holidays. "Orchards then were disced to control weeds. One of my memories is trying to spray in spring – especially oil – and tractors getting stuck."

Read More
Back To Top