By Amy Grundling
Training is the practice in which you direct the formation of a young tree to form a strong and balanced framework. It is better to direct tree growth with training than to correct it through pruning. However, pruning is a useful practice to encourage productivity by maximizing yield and fruit quality, through removing unwanted plant material.
The main objective of pruning and training include:
1. Maintaining a balance between shoots and roots at planting.
2. Encouraging strong wide crotch angels and preventing the tree to grow too tall. If the tree is too tall, it will increase labour and make it difficult for machinery to reach the top during harvesting.
3. Stimulating shoot growth.
4. Permit the correct amount of light to reach the tree interior.
5. Achieving orchard uniformity and well distributed fruiting wood.
Time is Key
Fruit trees needs to be pruned during the winter, which is the dormant season. Pruning too early in winter should be prevented to reduce winter damage (frost). Therefore, pruning before bloom (late winter) and early spring is ideal. By removing plant material during this time, more carbohydrates are stored in the tree, which will be used to form better quality and quantity fruits in the next season. By removing leaves during the late spring, it decreases unwanted vigorous regrowth in summer. Vigorous regrowth is unwanted, because the shoots are not used for fruit production and it blocks sunlight to reach the tree interior.
Different Training Systems for Stone and Pome Fruit
Pome fruit tree branches grow vertically, therefore it needs to be trained and pruned into a pyramid shape. The top of the tree should be smaller on top and increase in width the lower the branches are. This ensures that efficient sun light reaches the lower branches. It is therefore important to consider the location the upper and lower branches should be considered when pruning.
Stone fruit tree branches grow laterally, therefore it needs to be trained into a strong and balanced framework of scaffold branches. Pruning and training must be used to form a vase-shaped tree. The open centre allows air circulation and light penetration into the tree’s interior. Pruning and harvesting is also easier, because the fruit bearing surfaces closer to the ground.
The Difference Between a Heading and Thinning
Heading Cut: remove the growing tip of the branch. By removing the apical meristems, growth at the side buds are encouraged. Heading cuts result into a denser growth and prevent the fruit tree to grow too tall.
Thinning Cut: remove a side branch back to the larger parent branch or trunk. These cuts are used do reduce the canopy density to promote light penetration. Thinning also increases vigour of primary branches.
The Difference Between Spur and Lateral Bearing Habits
Spurs are short shoots that bear fruit. Spur bearing fruit trees yield fruits normally at the age of three years. During the second year, the tip of the shoot forms vegetative growth and buds at the base develops fruits. Spur bearing trees develop smaller fruits at higher quantity. Therefore, the trees should be pruned regularly to ensure higher quality of fruits.
Lateral bearing trees yield fruits during their second year. The shoots extend to develop the next seasons vegetative growth and the fruit buds develop at the previous season’s growth. This results into fruit development at the tip of the lateral shoots. The previous year’s young shoots should therefore be left when pruned.