Orchard Site Preparation: Bio-renovation

Before establishing a new orchard block, carefully assess all the factors that will affect fruit quality, production efficiency, and orchard sustainability.
Orchard Site Preparation: Bio-renovation - Videos


Penn State Extension Specialist Dr. John Halbrendt has developed a bio-renovation strategy to reduce fungal disease and nematodes that can attack young trees while improving soil organic matter and fertility to support large, diverse soil biological communities and healthy trees.


Tree Fruit Cultural Practices and Production Systems Sustainable Specialty Crop Production Support for Next Generation Farmers from Diverse Backgrounds

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Tianna DuPont

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(upbeat country music)

- Establishing a modern high density orchard is expensive.

It's important to prepare your site with care.

Dr. John Halbrendt with Penn State Extension has developed a bio-renovation strategy designed to reduce your fungal diseases and nematodes that attack young trees and improve your soil organic matter supporting large, diverse biological communities and healthy trees.

- So we wanna try to build up the soil health, add some biomass to the soil, help suppress some nematodes which can reduce the growth of the apple trees and just provide a better environment for the new trees to get started.

- [Narrator] Your first step is to remove old trees and roots.

Rip the soil to expose additional roots and rocks for removal.

Take soil samples for pH fertility and nematode analysis.

Apply lime.

Sorghum Sudangrass cover crops produce a large amount of biomass and contain (mumbles) compounds toxic to soil pathogens, nematodes, and weed seed.

Make sure to choose a variety high in bioactive compounds.

Your goal is to grow as much biomass as you can.

The more biomass, the more organic matter for your soil and bioactive compounds to combat soil problems.

Broadcast 50 pounds per acre of nitrogen along with the required phosphorus and potassium for forage crops based on your soil test before you plant your sudex.

Plant your sudex in June at 25 pounds per acre with a seed drill or 40 pounds per acre if you're broadcasting.

In Mid-July, that sudex should be 18 inches tall or more.

That's a good time to mow the cover crop and apply an additional 75 to 100 pounds per acre of ammonium sulfate to support regrowth and that'll also begin the nutritional plan for the following rapeseed.

The sulfur in the fertilizer is important for the rapeseed in order to produce bioactive compounds.

Now it's Mid-August.

Time for our first biofumigation.

Notice that the Sudan is nice and thick from good fertility and the proper seeding rate, that's great.

The more biomass that's produced and incorporated, the more chemicals will be released.

The conditions are also good today.

Warm, moist soil will help the volatile compounds move throughout the soil.

If possible, it's great to use a flail mower.

A flail will chop the cover crop into small pieces.

If you don't crush the plant tissue with chopping, the enzymes that's in one part of the plant material don't come in contact with the bioactive compounds and the treatment is gonna be less effective.

Follow mowing immediately by incorporation with a plower disc.

The bioactive compounds are volatiles which will escape into the atmosphere if we don't trap them underground.

Following with a cultipacker or irrigating afterwards can also help trap those volatiles in the soil where they're gonna do their work.

Rapeseed is another cover crop with bioactivity.

The tests have shown that two successive plantings of rapeseed reproduced nematode populations equivalent to an application of (mumbles).

Two weeks after incorporating the Sorghum Sudan, the bioactive compounds should have dissipated and it's time to plant the rapeseed.

Plant rapeseed at eight to 10 pounds per acre in a well-prepared seed bed.

Dwarf Essex is a standard variety of choice here in Pennsylvania because it overwinters well and contains plentiful glucosinolates, the compound toxic to nematodes.

Rapeseed planted in early September should be at the rosette stage going into winter so that it will successfully overwinter.

Early in spring, the rapeseed might not look like much, but as soon as the temperature warms up, it will shoot up and produce a lot of growth.

Just like you did with the Sorghum Sudangrass cover crop, mow the rapeseed using a flail mower and plow it in.

Two weeks after plowing down the first rapeseed cover crop, broadcast an additional 50 to 75 pounds of ammonium sulfate and plant a second cover crop of Dwarf Essex.

In Mid-August mow down and incorporate your second rapeseed.

Two weeks after you plow down the second rapeseed cover crop, it's time to broadcast any additional lime and fertility you need for your fruit crop and also plant Kentucky 31 fescue for your row middles.

Two weeks before planting your trees, apply glyphosate herbicide to kill the sod cover crop in four foot strips for the tree rows.

The killed sod will not compete with the trees and it traps more rain than bare ground and reduces soil erosion.

(upbeat country music)


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