Varying Density with Constant Rectangularity: I. Effects on Apple Tree Growth and Light Interception in Three Training Systems over Ten Years

in HortScience
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  • 1 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland, BC, Canada V0H 1Z0

The effect of increasing planting density at constant rectangularity on the vegetative growth and light interception of apple [Malus ×sylvestris (L) var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] trees in three training systems (slender spindle, tall spindle, and Geneva Y trellis) was assessed for 10 years. Five tree densities (from 1125 to 3226 trees/ha) and two cultivars (Royal Gala and Summerland McIntosh) were tested in a fully guarded split-split plot design. Planting density was the most influential factor. As tree density increased, tree size decreased, and leaf area index and light interception increased. A planting density between 1800 and 2200 trees/ha (depending on training system) was needed to achieve at least 50% light interception under the conditions of this trial. Training system altered tree height and canopy diameter, but not total scion weight. Training system began to influence light interception in the sixth leaf, when the Y trellis system intercepted more light than either spindle form. Trees trained to the Y trellis tended to have more spurs and a lower proportion of total leaf area in shoot leaves than the other two systems. The slender and tall spindles were similar in most aspects of performance. Tall spindles did not intercept more light than slender spindles. `Royal Gala' and `Summerland McIntosh' trees intercepted about the same amount of light. `Royal Gala' had greater spur leaf area per tree than `Summerland McIntosh', but the cultivars were similar in shoot leaf area per tree and spur density.