Multi-leader fruit wall orchard: a new approach to a more sustainable apple production
After carrying out for several years trials on the main cultural practices of apple growing (tree training, pruning, thinning and mechanization), studied one by one, it turned out that only trough a holistic approach it is possible to find proper solutions. Tree training and pruning deeply affect all other techniques. Multi-leader training (MLT) aims at reducing planting and cultivation costs. MLT results in better management of most cultural practices, easier mechanization of thinning, weed control and pruning, at lower costs. The thin fruiting wall of pedestrian orchards, no taller than 2.5 meters, results in lower amounts of chemicals and less drift during crop protection, is suitable to tunnel sprayers and to fixed spraying systems. Harvest aids and soon even robotic harvesting can be implemented in pedestrian orchards. This training system favours mechanical thinning of flowers, an alternative to chemical thinning of fruitlets and also the use of multi-tasking nets (protection from hail and some insects, thinning, anti-rain). Since MLT requires larger spacing between trees (1.5-2.5 meters) mechanical removal of weeds is also more effective than in standard orchard at 0.6-1.0 meters between trees.
All these techniques will be compared and assessed both in experiment farms and in private orchards, regarding the input required, including hand labour and the amount and quality of their production.
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