As nearly every aspect of orchard management has been optimized, growers are turning their attention below ground.
Efforts to improve soil function are being explored across the industry, but low-cost practices like mow and blow and mulch are especially important strategies for smaller farms that can’t afford to invest in all new systems.
“It’s an untapped area of improvement on our farms,” said Oregon cherry grower Mike Omeg, during a tour of his orchard in The Dalles in March. “It’s difficult for us to compete with these really large farms on efficiency. We can’t prune our way out of that problem, and you can’t just plant new orchards unless you have $35,000 an acre. Improving the soil is something we can do.”
Although it’s invisible below the soil surface, there’s just as much biomass below ground as above — a second half of the orchard that’s often ignored.
Cultivating a strong root system and a diverse community of beneficial organisms — from pest predators to mycorrhizae fungi that make roots more efficient — will lead to healthier trees and better fruit, according to experts who spoke at a cherry soil health day hosted by Oregon State University Extension in March. Read more of this Good Fruit Grower article…….