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Break branches and get more fruit

Put your pruning shears back in your pocket and instead use your hands to break branches on your fruit trees. The method produces a higher fruit yield according to experience gained at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Aarhus.

At this time of year magazines and newspapers are peppered with articles on how best to prune your fruit trees. At the Department of Horticulture at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (DJF) at the University of Aarhus the trees are treated in a much simpler manner – while at the same time yielding more fruit. This is done by snapping the branches.

Branches on trees are like yuppies – they strive in an upward direction. In the case of the tree, the internal struggle is all about reaching up for the light. The end result can be branches that are so intertwined that they themselves create shade for each other. That affects the formation of flower buds and, thereby, fruits.

The best shape a fruit tree can have is one central trunk, with branches that grow as close to a right angle as possible and that are at the most half as thick as the trunk. The tree is usually pruned to help it achieve this shape. However, once a branch is cut off, it does not bear fruit.

The scenario is different if the branch is just cracked.

- If the branch is cracked, it still hangs on and it will try and save the situation by forming more flowers and, thereby more fruits. We have registered the yield in pear trees where the crack-method gave an up to 50 percent higher yield, but the method can also be used on apple, cherry and plum trees, explains research agricultural assistant Kim Nielsen from the Department of Horticulture.

The branch is cracked relatively close to the trunk. On plum trees, where the branches are more brittle, you can twist the branch instead of snapping it. The cracking should be done in the early spring when the sap in tree is rising. That means the wound will heal quickly and there is no entry for fungal diseases. Besides resulting in a greater yield, the cracked branches also provide for more comfortable fruit-picking.

For more information please contact agricultural assistant Kim Nielsen, Department of Horticulture, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of Aarhus, telephone: +45 8999 3279, mobile: +45 20901995, e-mail: [email protected]

Wednesday 09 May 2007 | Communication Unit