A field planting of `Empire' and `Redchief Delicious' apple trees (Malus domestics Borkh.) was established in 1978 to evaluate four planting systems: 1) slender spindle/M.9, 2) Y-trellis/M.26, 3) central leader/M.9/MM.111, and 4) central leader/M.7a. During the first 5 years, yields per hectare for `Empire' were positively correlated with tree density. In the second 5 years, the Y-trellis/M.26 trees produced the highest yields while yields of the other systems continued to be related to tree density. Cumulative yields were highest with the Y-trellis/M.26 trees. With `Delicious', the Y-trellis/M.26 yields were greatest during all 10 years despite lower tree density than the slender spindle/M.9. Yields of `Delicious' with the other three systems were a function of tree density during the 10 years. At maturity, canopy volume per tree was greatest on the central leader/M.7a trees and smallest on the slender spindle/M.9 trees; however, there were no significant differences in canopy volume per hectare between the systems despite large differences in yield. Trunk cross sectional area (TCA) per hectare was greatest with the Y-trellis/M.26 trees and smallest with the central leader/M.7 trees. Yield was highly correlated to TCA/ha. Yield efficiency with `Empire' was greatest for the slender spindle/M.9 system, followed by the Y-trellis/M.26, central leader/M.9/MM.111, respectively. With both cultivars, the central leader/M.7a system had the lowest yield efficiency. With `Delicious', there were no differences in yield efficiency for the other three systems. The greater yield of the Y-trellis/M.26 system was the result of greater TCA/ha and not greater efficiency. `Empire' fruit size was largest on the central leader/M.7a and the central leader/M.9/MM.111 trees and smallest on the slender spindle/M.9 and the Y-trellis/M.26 trees. With `Delicious', fruit size was larger with the Y-trellis/M.26 trees than the other systems. When fruit size was adjusted for crop density, there were no significant differences due to system with `Empire', but with `Delicious' the Y-trellis/M.26 trees had larger adjusted fruit size than the other systems. Crop density calculated using TCA correlated better to fruit size than did crop density calculated using annual increase in TCA, canopy volume, or land area. Fruit color and quality with `Redchief Delicious' were not influenced by system. With `Empire', average fruit color and soluble solids content were lower for the Y-trellis/M.26 and slender spindle/M.9 in some years when canopy density was allowed to become. excessive.
Mature `Empire' and `Redchief Delicious' apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh.) trained to a Y-shaped trellis (Y/M.26) or trained as pyramid-shaped central leaders (CL/M.7) were mechanically harvested with the Cornell trunk recoil-impact shaker during 4 years. With `Empire', fruit removal from the Y/M.26 trees (85% to 90%) was significantly less than from the CL/M.7 trees (95% to 97%). With `Delicious' there were no differences in fruit removal (90% to 95%) between the two tree forms in any year. When the catching pad was on the ground, fruit grade based on damage was only slightly better for the Y/M.26 trees than for the CL/M.7 trees. When the catching pad was raised up near the Y/M.26 canopy, fruit grade was significantly improved for the Y/M.26 trees and was better than the CL/M.7 trees. Fruit grade for both cultivars ranged from 83% to 94% Extra Fancy with 5% to 16% culls for the Y/M.26 trees and from 74% to 88% Extra Fancy and 11% to 21% culls for the CL/M.7 trees. Skin punctures, skin breaks, and number of large and small bruises were lower and the percentage of nondamaged fruit was higher with the Y/M.26 trees when the pads were close to the canopy than when the pads were on the ground. The CL/M.7 trees had higher levels of all types of fruit damage than did the Y/M.26 trees. Damaged fruit from the CL/M.7 trees was mainly from the top half of the tree, while fruit from lower-tier scaffold branches had low levels of damage. Mechanically harvested fruit from the Y/M.26 trees had lower incidences of fruit rot and flesh breakdown after a 6-month storage period than did fruit from the CL/M.7 trees. Stem pulling was high with both systems and averaged 60% for `Delicious' and 30% for `Empire'. The advantage of the single plane Y-trellis system for mechanical harvesting appears to be that the catching pads can be placed close to the fruit, thereby reducing fruit damage.