From one stage to the next…

Well the bees finally finished their work and we moved them out of the orchards last night. I think they will move on to the blueberry farms next. We move them at night because most of them are back inside of the hive then. Except for a few who get caught out in the field at sunset and stay the night there. Today when they go back home the hive will be gone! What a surprise!

The fruit is growing each day now, and over the next few weeks we will be able to tell which fruitlets will continue to grow, and which will stop growing and fall off. So far things look good, but we aren’t completely safe from frost yet. I can remember when I was a kid we had a hard frost on June 6! The bean plants in the garden froze that year! (along with a lot of people’s landscaping flowers!)

Sometimes when the crop is too heavy we have to take some of the fruit off from the trees to make sure the rest become premium fruit. For the last couple of years, we have used a new method to determine very early which fruitlets have been pollinated well and which will eventually fall off by themselves. We select 5 trees of a variety, say Gala.

A cluster of tiny apple fruitlets

On each of those 5 trees my daughters, Tressa and Taylor mark 15 clusters of fruitlets (tiny apples).

Measuring Apples
Measuring the apples

When they reach about 6 millimeters in size, The girls mark and measure each fruitlet with a digital caliper (that’s about 375 fruits)! Then they enter all of the data into a spreadsheet program created by Phil Schwallier of Michigan State University. 

Four days later they repeat the process and enter the data into the program again. The spreadsheet calculates the growth rate of the fruits, and highlights fruit that is only growing half as fast as the biggest fruit. These smaller fruits will eventually fall off the tree on their own. This process helps us figure out what the size of the crop will be much earlier than we used to be able to. Which really helps us know how much thinning we will have to do!

Apples with Dots
Apples are marked with dots

The girls will be beginning this process this weekend. It is a very exacting science! They number each fruit by putting dots on them, one dot, two dots, three dots, etc. They have to  measure them in the exact same spot each time!

photo 2
My research team at work!

I really appreciate the girls willingness to do this tedious work.

photo 1

And do it with a smile!!

Hope you have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker


2 thoughts on “From one stage to the next…

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