Dream Weaver

Dream Weaver

Friday, 22 March 2013

hair cut for the apple trees

It's not easy to record back what I've done during the last weeks. 2 weeks ago I came to Frick, a small town nearby Basel in Switzerland for my master's thesis placement for 3 months. My stay is sponsored by DAAD SMP program, it supports students to do overseas placements.


I work in an Organic Agriculture Research Institute FiBL here, established since the 70s and is one of the well known institutes in this field. There are different work groups like Animal health and husbandry, crop protection and production, soil sciences, fruit production and viticulture. I stay with the international group, which operates development projects in countries like Inida, Malaysia, eastern Europe, S.America or Africa to help the small holder farmers with organic farming skills to improve their market access and livelihood through more sustainable farming practices.

Part time I also go to the field and learn about fruit trees management. Since the growing season will start soon when the weather gets warmer, some preparation works that was not done in last winter like prunning, have to be done before the winter's gone. Prunning generally helps to control the quality, size and color of the fruits. Pome fruits like apples give better and reddish color with more sunlight. It also minimizes the problem of alternate bearing of fruits, which means there are fruits harvest for this year, but nothing for next year. It's a skillful state of art to do prunning! You get to see and think where to cut and growing direction of the branches, and foresee where you want the new shoots to grow. Water shoots are something you must eliminate, cos they don't bear fruits and uptake extra nutrients and water from the tree, also shade the underneath growth if they grow in the canopy. Branches and stems grow in a narrow angle like vertically, you also need to cut them off. 

what a work, 3 people prun a dwarf apple tree!

a good capture to see how short the trees are, dwarf varieties
are main stream in apple production

I was standing so long in front of the trees, not sure where to cut and was afraid to hurt the tree when I trim too much. But I like it when I have to think, what the tree will become, when I prun the tree in a different way. Unlike growing crops or vegetables, fruit trees you grow them for years, and each year you can always do something to improve fruit yields. Amazing to know how human can manipulate nature, apples standard trees I think we all know how tall and big they are. But in small scale orchards or commercial orchards, dwarf varieties are more common, an apple "tree" is only 2 m or less tall, it's easier to harvest and manage. And they all look fragile creatures, need so much care and protection. And varieties tests on different cultivars are carried out here. 

It's not easy for me to learn about fruit trees from the scratch, but life is always challenging and I am glad that FibL people are super nice and eager to teach everyone. I love the working culture:)

DAAD Erasmus SMP program: http://www.tum-erasmus-smp.de/en/smp-praktikum/index.htm

FiBL: http://www.fibl.org/