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Orchards of Upstate New York: Collecting Samples

A few weeks ago I blogged about a trip I took to Peru, NY with the branch manager to visit with some of the apple growers of the region.  I mentioned that I would go back at a later date to conduct tissue and soil samples for any growers that wished to have them done.  This week I went back to Peru to take samples for three orchards: Hart Orchards, Forrence Orchards, and Northern Orchard.  The purpose of taking the samples is to identify and correct any nutritional or soil problems for the next growing season.

Collecting soil samples

On the first day, we took samples from both Hart and Northern Orchards.  Hart Orchards had tissue samples taken from four different blocks.  Two blocks were Macintosh apples, one was honey crisp, and another block was one that the growers said that they were getting a less than desirable crop from.  They were hoping to maybe find something through a tissue analysis.  For tissue samples, leaves are taken from spurs from the current growing season.  They are taken anywhere from late July to early August because the nutrient balance in the plant is the most stable.

The second stop of the day was Northern Orchards.  Here we took both tissue and soil samples.  Soil samples are taken by starting in one corner of a block and working in a line diagonally across the block.  This helps to get a broader picture of the orchard soil than working in one row.  Most of the tissue samples that we collected were from older trees with Macs, but we did collect samples on a block that had a new high density planting.

The second say of the trip was entirely devoted to taking samples for Forrence Orchards.  Forrences’ operate over a thousand

Deer repellent? If it works it works…

acres of orchards all over the town of Peru.  The first block that we took soil samples in was an old block that was going to get ripped up and replanted at the end of the growing season.  The soil samples were taken to see what kinds of things might need to be done to make the soil conditions better for the new trees, such as adding fertilizers to increase the abundance of nutrients that may be at low levels.

The rest of the day was spent taking tissue and soil samples from blocks all over the orchard.  At each block, broad tissue samples were taken.  This meant that we had to take leaves from many different trees across the to try to get a sample that represented the entire block.  At some of the smaller blocks, soil samples were taken in the same fashion.  However, at some larger blocks we divided them into smaller sections and took samples for each section.  This provides a better picture as to the soil makeup of the orchard and allows the grower to change his spray and fertilizer programs for specific rows in a block.  This saves money, as chemicals are only being applied where they are needed.

Beetles making short work of a leaf.

I can’t say that I learned a lot about apple production from the trip, but it definitely reinforced a lot of things I had learned in class.  It is one thing to read about something in a book and another to actually experience it in the field.  The best example I can think of was when I was looking for recent growth on the trees to collect samples from.  In HORT 1101, we spent a lab with Prof. Merwin in the orchard discussing pruning and how it results in a flush of new growth.  I found myself looking at the branches of trees that I would take tissues from and noticed they looked as if they had been recently pruned.  Rather than searching through branches to find ones with new growth, I was able to speed up the process a little by looking for spots that had been pruned.  More than likely, those spots were near new growth.





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