Alternate year bearing apple trees

Discussion in 'Fruit and Nut Trees' started by soccerdad, Oct 13, 2005.

  1. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    I have an Elstar apple tree that I got at the UBC Applefest about 5 years ago. Last year it produced 50 or 60 absolutely delicious apples. This year it did not produce any, causing me to search the web and discover (a) that some types of apple trees produce fruit every second year and (b) that Elstar is one of them. No problem - I will simply get another alternate-year producing tree, one that produces apples in years when my Elstar does not. My question is: how can I identify such a tree? If I just buy some other tree that is said to bear fruit in alternate years, it seems to me that my chances are 50% that it will produce apples in years when my Elstar does not, which is what I want - and 50% that it will be exactly synchronized with my current tree, giving me alternate years of feast and famine, which I certainly do not want.
     
  2. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Seems to me that you could establish the fruiting year early on by disbudding or removing the tiny fruits as soon as practical in the year you wish to be the "off year". That would assure a good crop the next.

    Does this make sense to others? Biennial fruiting is caused by the tree overextending it's resources with fruit production, which can be avoided by totally stripping the fruits early on, no?
     
  3. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Even with confirmed alternate bearing Apples
    there will be a heavy production year followed
    by a lean production year. We still get some
    Apples in the lean production year but not as
    many as the previous year. I have no answers
    for why the tree went from many Apples to
    none as I do not know any of the cultural
    practices and the effects of weather upon
    the tree that might in part explain why there
    were not any Apples this year. I cannot reason
    that this condition was due solely to the heavy
    crop last year.

    There is more to the story for this tree to have
    no Apples at all this year such as: rainfall when
    the tree was in bloom to prevent bee pollination,
    no pollinizer Apple tree nearby to aid in the
    pollinzing, a severe pruning to force out too
    much new growth, for spur type Apples the
    cutting off of the spurs, too much Nitrogen
    which can cause too much vegetative growth
    at the expense of flower production, a growth
    regulator applied when the trees were in bloom,
    same as a herbicide applied to the ground when
    the tree was about to bloom which can make the
    flowers fall off the tree. We need to know more
    of what happened before the tree was to flower
    and what was going on as the tree was in bloom
    and what happened to the flowers afterwards.
    Then the question, were there any flowers at all
    which would explain why there were not any
    Apples. We need a walk through as to what went
    on with this tree in order to give an analysis of
    what went wrong any credence.

    Below is an article using growth regulators as a
    tool for alternate bearing trees.

    Overcome alternate-bearing apple trees with strong cultural base, timely PGRs

    Obviously there is a problem with the Elstar producing
    many Apples that may have to be chemically thinned
    in order to generate size to the Apples and to better
    ensure a next years crop in the process.

    THINNING OF 'JONAGOLD' AND 'ELSTAR' APPLES WITH THE COMBINATION OF ETHEPHON AND CPPU

    An excellent tree growing overview with the use of growth regulators.

    OTHER GROWTH REGULATOR PROGRAMS:APPLES AND PEARS

    This link serves to be one of the better general links
    I've seen for this Apple. The photo is excellent and
    is probably the best quality photo you will find online
    of the Apple. I have not seen much information on
    this Apple from Canadian sources online so the basis
    for this topic for the day in my view becomes even
    more timely and pertinent.

    Botany Photo of the Day: Malus 'Elstar'

    Jim
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Manhart, Apples for the 21st Century (North American Tree Company) says simply "tendency to biennial bearing, unless thinned well". You probably just have to thin the fruit each year to get it to even out production.
     
  5. soccerdad

    soccerdad Active Member 10 Years

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    I also have a 5 year old Ambrosia tree and, on one 15 year old tree, Cox's Orange Pippin, Empire, and Golden Delicious. Those two other trees are within 60 feet of my Elstar, and everything fruited as normal this year, so I assume that pollination is not the issue.

    The tree looks healthy - lots of healthy new growth and lots of not-particularly-diseased leaves, no signs of scab or canker (noteworthy because we gets lots of scab on apples trees here).

    The apples that were produced last year seemed to be normal sized.

    I am an urban backyard gardener and so I pay more attention to the environment than commercial growers can; the owner before me did not use anything artifical for 50 years (save that he threw thousands of bent nails into the garden, presumably to add iron to the soil) nor have I for the 25 years that I have been here, So neither growth regulators nor herbicides etc could be responsible - although now that I think of it, my neighbour of 4 years now uses a gardener and who knows what he may have introduced to the neighbourhood??

    I think that my pruning may have been defective - but I do not recall seeing any blossoms at all; is that consistent with poor pruning? Generally I just cut off suckers and cross branhes and smaller branches and shorten new growth on the remaining branches.

    Anyway, I went to the University of British Columbia Apple Festival on Saturday and selected a new tree based solely on the opinions that a gaggle of 13 year old girls formed during a visit to the tasting tent - not exactly scientific, but hey, they're the mian intended consumers.
     
  6. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I just threw out some ideas as to some causes
    that might preclude an Apple from having any
    fruit. Too vigorous of growth can have a dramatic
    effect on flowering but you should have had some
    flowers anyway. It is that notion that I had is what
    I do not fully understand why you did not have any
    bloom.

    I do not recall seeing any blossoms at all; is that
    consistent with poor pruning?
    Hard to say without
    seeing the trees but geez we have to really whack
    these things to prevent them from flowering at all.
    Even ones (Arkansas Black, Ozark Gold) I've told
    others to really prune back hard at a 3500 foot
    elevation bloomed the following year. A lot of
    times it matters when we prune the trees but what
    you did for pruning on the surface did not cause
    your trees to not flower. There is something else
    that went wrong.

    Jim
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Fruits are formed on flowering spurs that live for years, biennial bearing is usually just that, and not biennial flowering as well. The lack of a full crop every year is the problem, not the complete abscence of flowers and fruits every other year. If you snipped or broke all the spurs off while pruning it will not bear again until these are replaced.
     
  8. kimber

    kimber Member

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    I have a simular apple tree. It is probably 20 years old, and has fruit every other year. The off year is marked by no more than 5 blossoms, and the "on" year is marked by so much fruit I cannot pick it all. I have thinned the fruit, even to such an extend that I could not roll the garbage can, but still that did not do the job either. The branched in the middle are just too high to reach to thin, so I admit that those I did not thin. Also it seems like my apples are Elstars and that they ripen late, especially the ones in the top middle, rather than the ones I can reach! I have also tried to feed the tree extra and that did not do the job either.
    So by now, I just get the canner out and make pie filling for 2 years! I have given up.
     

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