Leader Management and Soil Fumigation Affect Branching and Precocity of Young Apple Trees

in HortScience
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  • 1 Department of Horticultural Science, Box 7609, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7609

Apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) cultivars Spur Galagored (#42) (`Gala'), Jonagored (`Morren's'), and Red Fuji (B.C. #2) (`Fuji') on Mark rootstock and `Gala' on Malling 26 EMLA (M.26) and Malling 9 EMLA (M.9) were planted in the four major apple-production regions of western North Carolina. Three leader management techniques, weak leader renewal, snaked leader, and heading with partial terminal leaf removal (H + PTLR), were applied to five-tree plots beginning the spring after planting. Leader management techniques, weak leader renewal or H + PTLR, which involved dormant pruning or vegetation removal and an interruption in vegetative vigor, reduced total branching and yield during the third year. Fumigation with methyl bromide increased lateral branching and yield in the third year. No significant yield differences were detected for `Gala' grown on M.9, M.26, or Mark rootstocks. Trees grown in the most western region of the state, Haywood County, had smaller trees and reduced yields compared to the other three regions due to a shorter growing season.