Orchard Floor Management Affecting the Performance of Young Organic ‘Honeycrisp’ Apple Trees

J. Reekie, E. Specht, E. Bevis and G. Braun


Six orchard floor management systems (OMSs) were installed in 2010 in a young ‘Honeycrisp’ apple (Malus x domestica) orchard (planted 2008) aiming to suppress weed growth. Treatments were: bare ground used as control, reflective mulch, reflective mulch placed over composted manure, composted manure, green manure and bent grass as companion plant cover, and were set out in replicated, randomized plots.

The OMS affected weed abundance, tree growth, leaf photosynthesis and fruit production in 2011. Reflective mulch and bent grass were effective in weed suppression. Compost and green manure plots had a high percentage of weed cover, although weed composition between these two OSMs were different. Trunk cross sectional area (TCA) was highest in trees treated with compost (25 cm2), followed by trees growing in the reflected mulch and bare ground plots (13 cm2); bent grass and green manure plots had the slowest growing trees with a TCA of 10 cm2. Leaf photosynthetic rate was highest in trees treated with compost. This is the first cropping season for this 3-year old orchard. Although trees have not yet reached their full cropping potentials, those in compost plots and reflective mulch plots yielded on average 31 and 12 fruits respectively. Placing reflective mulch over compost had enhanced fruit yield with an average of 45 fruits produced per tree. Trees in bare ground, bent grass and green manure plots produced few fruits (0 – 4).


Proceedings of the 2nd International Organic Fruit Symposium. June 18-21, 2012. Leavenworth, Washington.

Author Locations and Affiliations

Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre, Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, Kentville, NS, Canada

Posted August 2012