Boosting apple production with specialist training system

Earlier this year, Agrovista’s top fruit consultant Leon Jahae explained the benefits of training plum crops using the Drapeau Lehner system. Now he recommends adopting the same system for apple growing, and discusses why in this informative blog post.

Leon Jahae, top fruit consultant for Agrovista

“The simplicity and logic of the Drapeau Lehner system makes it a no-brainer for me and is why I’m now recommending it to apple growers.

Simply put, it creates a ‘fruit wall’ without the need for expensive high-density planting. This older training system can take longer to establish than conventional fruit walls, but offers many advantages without the additional costs and risks involved. For apple growers, the investment cost on trees will be lower per ha. 

Improved uniformity and automation potential

Adopting a wall system means that instead of growing m3 in volume or in 3D, it’s growing m2 or 2D. This makes future automation easier and in the short term, fruits are more uniform and access to the trees is improved.

The Drapeau Lehner system in particular trains fruit trees so the central leader grows at a 45-degree angle below a 90-degree wire. Light distribution in the lower part of the tree is excellent and all husbandry can take place from soil level. 

Growing pink apples in the UK

This improved light distribution is particularly relevant for those looking to grow pink varieties, which are especially popular with British consumers at the moment. Pink varieties need a good, even light source so using the Drapeau Lehner system could improve UK growers’ ability to grow these popular apples, and reduce reliance on imported produce.

Controlling growth using the system also reduces apical dominance from the central leader and encourages good quality wood in the lower part of the trees. This can help growers to control vigorous varieties whilst increasing the vigor of weaker varieties.

An objective view

To be objective, a disadvantage of growing apples in this way would be the additional work required to ‘tie in’ new shoots. That being said, it’s a relatively simple job that can be completed quickly and is compensated later on, when required labour is reduced thanks to the system.

Efficiency is key for any grower to help meet the demands of the consumer. More than ever we are appreciating home-grown British produce so any way in which growers can streamline production will be beneficial now and long-term.”