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

Managing vegetative growth in higher density apple systems in the Southeast can be difficult due to the longer growing season. This study was initiated in 1990 to evaluate leader management techniques that have commercial potential for high-density systems in the Southeast. `Spur Galagored', `Jonagored', and `Red Fuji' apples on Mark root-stock were planted in the four major apple production regions of western North Carolina. The three leader management techniques evaluated were weak leader renewal, banding of the leader during the growing season (snaked leader), and leader heading with partial terminal leaf removal (H + PTLR) every 25 cm of leader growth. In the third year, branching was greatest for the snaked leader. In the fifth year, no differences in trunk cross-sectional area were detected between the leader management techniques. However, yields were significantly greater for trees managed with the snaked leader. Trees with the snaked leader yielded 44 kg/tree compared to 35 and 34 kg/tree for the H + PTLR and weak leader renewal, respectively. This illustrates that leader management techniques that use pruning or vegetation removal reduce the early production required of profitable high-density systems.