Cherry orchard planting systems and rootstocks in the age of precision and technology

Gregory A. Lang [Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, U.S.A.]

The planting of a sweet cherry orchard is a commitment of land, infrastructure, and anticipated labor availability that must remain relevant, operational, and profitable for at least several decades. In many fruit-producing regions worldwide, skilled orchard labor has become increasingly costly and difficult to source. Orchards designed with narrow “fruiting wall” rows of trellised planar tree canopies, with simplified structures comprised of repetitive fruiting units, are certain to be key for accommodating greater labor efficiency. The implementation, advantages, and limitations of four such planar orchard canopy architectures are reviewed: Upright Fruiting Offshoots (UFO), Tri-Axe or Trident (TRI), Super Slender Axe (SSA), and Espalier (ESP). These are also anticipated to be critical for the application of developing agricultural technologies that are progressing rapidly, such as motorized platforms for more efficient, safer use by orchard labor, autonomous vehicles with increasingly powerful sensing and image-capture technologies and robotic implements to perform selective and precise orchard tasks, and geographic information system (GIS) mapping to provide greater precision in spatial analysis of critical orchard parameters such as blossom density and crop loads, as well as variability in individual plant performance (e.g., water use, growth, yields, and tree health) across the orchard. Furthermore, it likely will be advantageous for future trellised canopy architectures to facilitate potential orchard or row covering structures to reduce the considerable climatic and/or pest infestation risks associated with sweet cherry production, particularly with the experience of recent climatic extreme events as preludes to an ever-changing global climate.

DOI: 10.26353/j.itahort/2022.1.C3

Keywords: Prunus avium, high density, planar canopy architecture, fruiting wall, mechanization, robotics

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Lang, G.A. (2022) 'Cherry orchard planting systems and rootstocks in the age of precision and technology', Italus Hortus, 29(1), pp. 38-54. doi: 10.26353/j.itahort/2022.1.C3