The Forbidden Apple Tree Knowledge Thread

Discussion in 'Fruit Trees' started by Native Hunter, May 14, 2017.

  1. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Back on the old QDMA forum I had a thread about apple trees that some people loved and have asked me to post on this forum so that they would have access to the scientific information that I spent many hours researching.

    When I started that thread I had a question and a hypothesis.

    In science, hypothesis is a tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, the hypothesis is provisionally corroborated. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis is proved false and must be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.

    "Fact" in science is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.

    By the time I finished my research, it was my personal opinion that my hypothesis had been proven as fact.

    Note: The following is where I pieced together (cut and pasted parts of) the information in the original thread. I realized later that I should have copied the whole thread, but I didn’t do that. What I have included is what I consider to be the important information.

    Note: The forum only allows me to enter 10,000 characters at a time, so I have to make multiple posts to get all of this done.


    The Original Question I posed with partial research: Why do we have so many issues (especially with fireblight) growing some apple cultivars that in the past gained such high acclaim and have been propagated for decades and maybe even centuries?

    My Original Hypothesis with partial research: Every heritage apple cultivars started as a full sized tree on its own natural rootstock and was grown from a seed. When someone recognized a particular tree as something special and worthwhile for propagating, they were observing that tree growing on its own natural rootstock. Most of the time when that tree was propagated (by common country folks in the 1800s), it was from rooting a cutting of that variety or digging a root sprout, and the new tree also became a full sized tree that was essentially a clone of the parent tree in all respects at the molecular level.

    When you read the wonderful stories about a particular old heritage apple variety, you are reading what was written about its performance and attributes as a full sized tree like I have just described. Many of those varieties were just as wonderful as the words that were written about them. However, some of those varieties – even though worth propagating – were not so great in terms of fireblight resistance, and the stories about them were exaggerated to some degree. They were good enough as full sized trees to be continued as a cultivar, but they were very marginal in disease resistance. But did the common country man at that time really care? There was no reason to care as long as they were producing enough apples and good enough apples to please the people who grew them.

    I believe that it is many of those cultivars like I just described that give casual growers like most of us on this forum trouble today. Why – because we are not growing them as full sized trees but as dwarf and semi dwarf trees. They were marginal or borderline in their natural state, and when we started grafting them and growing them on dwarfing rootstocks we tipped the scales (possibly in multiple ways) to the unacceptable side (for us) due to several factors that I am getting ready to talk about.

    Note: Keep in mind that what I am talking about here is for the casual growers like I believe most people on this forum are and want to remain. The main difference between us and the 1800s homesteader is that we are also concerned about producing apples for deer and other wildlife. Both groups (us and them) want/ed to also grow apples for human consumption, but for them it was more of a necessity.

    My discussion here is not for the professional grower who must go to great lengths to spray and perform special activities beyond the scope of the casual grower in order to produce apples of supermarket quality. I suspect that with enough spraying and care that almost any apple could be successfully grown, but I really have no personal interest in becoming a commercial grower.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2017
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  2. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Factor #1 (Reduction in Vegetative Growth): Several scholarly papers in recent years have touched on how vegetative growth of some apple cultivars is affected by the type of rootstock to which they are grafted. In a paper found at http://www.virtualorchard.net/IDFTA/...ril/page46.pdf the following quote is made:

    “Dwarfing rootstocks, in simplistic terms, reduce the amount of scion dry weight. This effect is achieved by a reduction in both the rate at which vegetative shoots grow (extend) and the time period over which they grow. Compared to an invigorating rootstock, a dwarfing rootstock directs a greater proportion of dry weight into fruit production rather than into vegetative growth. We do not know how this is achieved, but if dwarfed shoots grow more slowly and do not grow for as long during the season, then dwarfed scions might be expected to have less leaf area than those on vigorous rootstocks. The effects of a reduction in leaf area means that scion shoots on dwarfing rootstocks may produce less photoassimilate relative to scions on vigorous rootstocks. Differences in the way leaves are orientated on the tree may also influence their ability to intercept solar radiation and convert this into fruit production via photosynthesis. Factors such as these may contribute to the observed reduction in tree size associated with dwarfing rootstocks, but they do not necessarily explain differences in the way dry weight is partitioned between tree growth and cropping.”

    While the above statement does not totally prove my theories, the wheels in your brain must surely be spinning – wanting to know more. I certainly feel that way. I rationalize that when fireblight destroys a portion of the limbs on a tree, the future survival of that tree depends somewhat on the vegetative growth that it is able to produce in order to replace that which was lost. Could it be possible that on some (marginal) cultivars that the suppression of vegetative growth to accomplish that task might tilt the usefulness of that cultivar for the casual grower toward the negative side of the scale?

    I was not able to grow the “Mrs. Bryan” cultivar successfully on M111. The above seemed to be a factor. So much limb area had to be removed on that tree each year due to fireblight, it seemed that the tree could never catch up with what it lost. Plus, the central leader would always be affected and much of it had to be removed. The result was a struggling, misshapen tree that was finally discarded.

    Yet, common people grew that apple successfully at one time, but they grew it as a full sized tree.

    Factor #2 (Percentage of the Total Tree Affected in the “Shoot Blight” phase): Imagine with me for a minute the smallest dwarf apple tree in existence setting next to the largest apple tree in existence. Imagine that both of them enter the shoot phase of fireblight and that the shoots are affected down to a diameter of the ½ inch range.

    Which tree is affected the most in terms of total area?

    Obviously, the small one. In fact, with this much shoot blight damage, the central leader of the small tree is likely affected an in jeopardy. However, the large tree is only affected at the distant limb ends. (Note: I am not ignoring that there are other forms of fireblight infection besides the shoot blight stage. But for this specific point, I am focusing entirely on that factor. I am well aware that rootstock susceptibility and other factors are important, but for now I’m talking about surface area only.)

    Most of us on this forum are growing semi dwarf trees rather than the smallest dwarf trees like I used in the example above, but the point made still applies – just to a lesser degree. If a certain cultivar struggled with fireblight in its natural form but was still able to be a worthwhile tree, will it still be a worthwhile tree if a larger percentage of its surface area is affected (and perhaps its central leader as well) when a strike occurs? Common sense tells me in some instances it will not.

    Factor #3 (Subjection of New Tree to “Shoot Blight” Phase at an Earlier Age): I have observed over the years that shoot blight mainly occurs when (or just after) an apple tree is flowering. I’m not bold enough to say it’s impossible without flowering but I can say that I personally have been around apples all my life, and that is my observation. With a full sized apple on its natural rootstock, the years of growth before flowering and fruiting starts taking place can vary, but I think 10 – 15 years is an average number that most would agree with.

    However, on a semi dwarf tree, I have seen flowering and fruiting begin as early as 2 years in the ground and by 3 years, flowering is highly likely. Does that really mean anything? I don’t know for sure, but does the fact that a tree must start dealing with fireblight at a more youthful state possibly play a role in its long term survivability and health? Even the rootstock itself may not be fully developed by that time (depending on the particular rootstock).

    This may or may not be a significant factor to consider, but if it is a factor, I can’t see how it could be anything other than a negative one.
     
  3. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Factor/s #4 (Other miscellaneous Items): Other miscellaneous things that I read about and observe bring up questions that I long to have answered. The same paper cited above at http://www.virtualorchard.net/IDFTA/...ril/page46.pdf makes the following statement:

    “Some rootstocks alter flowering time and this may be due to changes in the chilling requirement of different rootstocks.”

    Since shoot blight infections most frequently begin at the flowers, could the fact that the flowering time is altered on some apple cultivars have an effect (positive or negative) on the degree of fireblight infection that a tree must endure in any given year? Fireblight strikes are heavily dependent on weather conditions, and weather conditions are at least somewhat dependent on the time of the year. That last statement is not speculation – it is scientific fact!! So when man alters the natural blooming time of a particular cultivar, could he also alter the degree to which it is affected by fireblight?

    Also consider the following statement from the same paper just cited in the paragraph above:

    “Our understanding of how rootstocks influence scion vigor, flower induction and cropping must, therefore, be improved. Attempts to explain the rootstock influence in terms of a graft union effect on the translocation of minerals or water, or those due to differences in root anatomy, have not proved satisfactory. Recent studies have suggested that rootstocks may influence scion growth and cropping by direct or indirect effects on plant hormones, either via synthesis, metabolism or transport from root to shoot and from shoot to root.”

    WOW, did you get that??? Now we are talking about effects on hormones, synthesis factors, metabolism factors and changes in translocation of minerals or water. And did you catch that effects could exist that not only cause changes in transmission from the rootstock to the scion, but also from the scion to the rootstock?

    I certainly can’t fully explain these factors, but neither can the experts. But, I see enough to tell me that at least some cultivars on at least some rootstocks may not necessarily be the same creature we were dealing with before man interceded in the natural course of things.


    From the report found at: http://bmcgenomics.biomedcentral.com...1471-2164-13-9 the following conclusions are quoted:

    "In this study, we found that rootstock genotype influenced 'Gala' scion fire blight susceptibility in grafted apple trees. This indicates that at least some level of resistance possessed by the rootstock can be conferred upon the scion variety that is grafted to it. These phenotypic differences in scion fire blight susceptibility were associated with reproducible patterns of gene expression in uninfected trees. Most of the transcripts identified in this study had higher levels of expression in the least susceptible trees. The expression levels of some of these genes may play a role in determining the susceptibility status of apple trees to E. amylovora prior to infection. Some of the identified genes may also play a role in fire blight disease resistance after infection has begun. It is also possible that some of the genes identified in the study affect the suitability of the host environment for the bacterium, rather than being involved in defense directly."

    While all of my theories are not precisely proven by this study, it was proven that rootstocks do influence the susceptibility of grafted Gala scions to fireblight. I contend that if it is true for Gala scions, there is a high degree of probability that it will be true for other cultivars as well. I think anyone would have to be crazy to believe otherwise….
     
  4. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Further Research by the end of the old thread that I feel proved my points (to my personal satisfaction):

    My research also led me to an old paper from NEW YORK STATE AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION that supports many of my theories. The quotes below are found at the following link:

    https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstre...pdf?sequence=1

    “Fireblight
    This disease was not ordinarily a rootstock-related problem with the standard tree for several reasons:

    1. Since on trees with standard roots, flowering did not begin until the trunk and scaffold system became quite large, a blight lesion then developing on the trunk or scaffolds was relatively unlikely to result in girdling.

    2. Heavy shading limited the development of fruit spurs on the trunk and main scaffolds. This virtual absence of blossoms on the primary tree structure reduced the possibility of initial infections occurring there and therefore there was little chance of a girdling lesion developing.

    3. With the wide spacing between trees and between rows, inoculum had to be transferred considerable distances between source and infection court.

    4. Most seedling roots are inherently somewhat resistant to fire blight. Perhaps more important, by the time flowering began, shade was so dense that rootstock suckers were succulent for only a short period each spring.

    Our change to the new rootstocks has altered the picture:

    (1) Trees on most of the clonal stocks begin bearing at an early age, when the tree is still small enough that a single canker on the rootstock can girdle and kill it (Fig. 3).

    (2) Many vigorous fruit spurs are set on the lower trunk and scaffolds while
    these are still of small circumference. Fire blight cankers are likely to develop from infected flowers, and these cankers can extend laterally enough to kill a substantial part of the tree. (3) With closer spacings, bees tend to work down a row, rather than on a single tree; inoculum may thus be distributed much more efficiently.

    (4) Most serious, some of the rootstock clones are themselves extremely susceptible to the fire blight bacteria.”


    More from the same paper quoted above:

    “At least three mechanisms may be identified by which certain rootstocks contribute to severity of fire blight in the fruiting variety:

    1. Most of the clonal stocks, especially M.9, M.26, and MM. 106, accelerate the onset of flowering in the scion variety. Therefore, more infection courts are available earlier in the life of the tree.


    2. The downward extension of a fire blight lesion is limited, in part, by the "hardening" of the stem. Shoots of trees on MM. 106 rootstocks tend to grow relatively late in the summer and to be come "hardened" weeks after trees on M.9 stocks. Fire blight lesions in trees on MM. 106 roots tend to continue basipetal extension for a much longer period than in trees on M.9 roots; in addition, shoots are susceptible to initial infection for a longer time.


    3. Empire, Mclntosh, Idared, Monroe, and Jona than are examples of fruiting varieties which typically produce fruit buds on 1-year-old spurs. When one of these varieties is grown on M.9, M.26, and (sometimes) on MM.106 rootstocks, many of the lateral buds on new growth differ entiate into fruit buds. These lateral fruit buds open 3 to 7 days later than the normal spur buds. This phenomenon prolongs the bloom period—the period during which the blossom blight phase of the disease is initiated. In addition, weather during this late bloom tends to be warmer and therefore more conducive to the development of the disease. Additional sprays may be indicated when considerable lateral flowering occurs.”


    I also want to make one more statement in regard to science. I am a firm believer in proven science, and many times I base beliefs and opinions totally upon the scientific evidence. The laws of physics (science) are an everyday part of the calculations that I do in my job, and you can count on these law always being what we believe them to be in our natural world (except in the case of divine intervention).

    However, I think there are people in our society who rely so much on science that they miss the obvious just because someone hasn’t performed a study or research project. It’s a form of blindness that leaves me shaking my head. Or as my grandpaw used to say, “He wouldn’t know the truth if it walked up and slapped him in the face.”
     
  5. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    In summation, I think what all this means to the casual apple grower is that great care needs to be given to picking apple cultivars that work on dwarfing rootstocks. I think most of us already know that and try to do it, but don’t be misled into believing that any apple that gives acceptable results as a full sized tree on its own rootstock can be grown to our (casual grower) satisfaction on any given dwarfing rootstock. Also keep in mind that any glowing stories you may read about a particular variety could be exaggerated to begin with and that you could be starting with a marginal apple that tips the scales to unacceptable performance for you on a different rootstock.

    I have one more axe to grind, so I might as well get that out of the way now:

    Centuries ago, wise and just men realized that “only telling the truth” was not good enough as testimony in the legal system. I’m not certain who actually coined the phrase I want to discuss, but it’s one we all know…”the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth….”

    Now, just for the fun of it, let’s apply that standard to our current discussion:

    First let’s tell the “truth:” Dwarfing and Semi Dwarfing rootstocks can offer many wonderful advantages over full sized trees.

    Now, let’s tell the “whole truth:” Dwarfing and Semi Dwarfing rootstocks can offer many wonderful advantages over full sized trees, but there are also many pitfalls and problems that can be encountered. This is especially true when grafting fireblight susceptible cultivars. And, some rootstock / cultivar combinations are almost sure to bring disastrous results in some locations – depending on several different factors. Great effort should be given to gaining knowledge of these important factors before purchasing trees and/or choosing components for grafting activities. This is going to be difficult for you, because it's not kosher to talk about. Several people have the knowledge to help you but they won't, because it means less money in their pockets.

    Now let’s cover “nothing but the truth:” Hello Mr. Apple Tree Buyer. My name is Mr. Apple Tree Seller. I must warn you that the wonderful and brilliantly composed stories on my Web-site about the apple cultivars that I sell could be very misleading. Those stories are about apple trees that were grown as full sized trees. Even though I am selling you the same cultivar, I want you to know that it is a scientific fact that my trees may not perform as wonderfully on my rootstocks compared to the same cultivar on a standard rootstock. You could end up with serious problems - especially with fireblight.

    Now I could go on and on and on with this nonsense, but I’ve made my points. Being right is sweet, but now having the knowledge is even sweeter.

    Good growing and may God Bless you – Steve
     
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  6. DLH

    DLH Active Member

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    Steve I know you have been very passionate about this I will finish my post with someone who has the same views as you. The only difference is he has been growing trees on their own roots for 25 plus years. Just to give you some discussion points what do you think about grafting onto "heritage,heirloom,old fashioned? (sorry no good wording)" dwarf rootstocks? What I mean by this is some apple cultivars grown on their own roots have dwarfing tendencies I think cox orange pippin being one of them. I myself would think those still might pose problems you mention because I think it has more to do with the graft union issues and the dwarfing has a negative effect by making the tree more susceptible at a younger age. I find it interesting that the gala piece you posted mentioned nutrient transfer at the graft union.

    https://www.orangepippin.com/resources/own-roots
     
  7. Merle Hawggard

    Merle Hawggard Well-Known Member

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    Interesting write up NH. Do you think anaktova would have the same fb issues as dwarf rootstocks? I had a few flowers on some pretty young anaktova trees this year.
    I know b118 is supposed to be close to standard size, but they do flower early so it's going to be troublesome with them too.
    Would it be best to plant below the graft and try for scion rooting?
    I've actually, for the most part, stuck with b118, anaktova, and a few seedling rootstocks set out about 30' apart.
    I do have a few on mm111 that Chuck and I had talked about bridge grafting like we did the Captain Davis tree, but to make them bigger, longer lived trees, not because they've been girdled like it was.

    Sent from my SM-S903VL using Tapatalk
     
  8. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Daniel,

    The short answer to your question is, "Yes, it would still pose the possibility of some of the same issues."

    I feel that you and I have talked enough that you understand the points I'm making. But, it would be easy for someone to read more than I'm saying into it as well. So, for others, let me give a recap of what I'm saying and what I'm not saying:

    • I'm not saying that it is bad to grow apples on semi dwarfing rootstocks. Many of us are doing that successfully with no issues at all on several cultivars.
    • I am saying that there are some serious issues with growing some cultivars on semi dwarfing rootstocks that may have been acceptable on their own rootstocks.
    • I am saying that this has been widely known in academic circles (and by some professional orchardists) for decades but swept under the rug for the most part because of all the money involved in the industry. However, many of the nurseries and people who propagate trees have little knowledge of this - and most don't want to know about it, because it is something that could affect them in a negative way financially. We read the wonderful stories of yesteryear about a certain apple, and they are indeed selling the same apple - but, is it really the same apple when it has had certain attributes changed at the molecular level.............
    I will follow up with more later.... Thanks for the reply.
     
  9. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Merle, thanks for the reply, and first of all read the info where I just replied to Daniel.

    I think there is less of a possibility with issues from antonovka, because it makes a full sized tree. Some of the negative affects noted in my research had to do with size, so for at least some things - size does matter. However, the changes at the molecular level could still be present, and that could have a negative impact, a positive impact, or no notable impact.

    Also keep in mind that it isn't every apple cultivar that will have negative issues when grafted to a different rootstock - only some combinations could be troubling. I think that the highest possibility of troubling issues exists on cultivars that were marginally acceptable on their own rootstocks.

    If you want to read a horror story, go to the following link. This guy loses 3,000 apple trees due to a bad combination of rootstock and scion.


    http://www.goodfruit.com/problematic-pairings-with-geneva-935/
     
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  10. Merle Hawggard

    Merle Hawggard Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Steve! Btw I am doing the trial we talked about with wolf river. It's on b118, but I planted it deep to scion root and back of the pond away from the main orchard to see how it does.

    Sent from my SM-S903VL using Tapatalk
     
  11. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    I think the people with egg on their faces are those people you know who claim to be apple experts and lead you to believe that you can count on their counsel.

    If they were really experts, then why didn't they know about all of this? Why do they need a KY hillbilly to educate them?

    If they did know about it, then why didn't they say anything about something so important?

    The answer: They were either fake experts or they were real experts withholding valuable information that would have prevented problems for their fellow man - neither of which is acceptable to me.
     
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  12. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    That's great Merle. I think DLH is performing a similar experiment.

    This experiment may not stop the early flowering issues, but it will affect the ultimate size issue.
     
  13. dogghr

    dogghr Well-Known Member

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    KY people always stirring up trouble.:) Im glad you resurfaced this discussion as I think it helps some understand their frustration with growing apple that are deemed perfect easy growers yet give issues to the grower from the start.
    I do have a question, not the guru some of you guys are. My current farm I don't have much to go on as it is new to me, but my old places I have apple trees planted that are reaching 25 yo. While I'm sure they were semi drawrf, They have grown to what I consider full size trees. You know I don't really do anything to fruit trees as I consider them to be on their own and if they aren't tough enough to survive, then so be it. I don't have the time, energy, or desire to baby them. But at any rate, these trees deal with their diseases and insects with little effort, and except for couple years they saw a chainsaw pruning, have produced each year.
    Now my question, even tho these were sold as semi dwarf, do you think they are actually full size and are either purposely, or mistakenly mistagged to sale?? Or do semi dwarf, just eventually just become a full tree regardless of it genetices? Prob dumb questions but curious.
    Next question, are these issues you see more related to where the tree grows, or does that have any affect in what you have observed?
    Thanks again. Great thread.
     
  14. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    You were one of the old rascals who prodded me to start this back up, so you can't hide in the shadows.....:D

    Let me answer your last question first: Location most certainly does play a role in problems that a tree will experience from diseases. Fire blight is not a serious issue in some areas of the country. The same can be said for the other major diseases affecting apple trees. A tree prone to any given disease may perform very well at some places and be a disaster at others.

    Next, A rootstock should continue to impact the ultimate size of a tree for the life of the tree unless it is planted deep and the tree forms its own roots above the rootstock. Some popular semi dwarfing rootstock produce trees that are 75% the size of a typical full sized tree. It would be hard for the naked eye to really look at such a tree setting by itself and say it was a semi dwarf versus a full sized tree. There are also popular rootstocks (such as antonovka) that are advertised to produce a full sized tree. It's really hard to say what your trees were on, because it was so long ago, and mixups happen at nurseries all the time. Just be glad that you got a combination which worked so well for you.

    I bought a tree from a nursery this year that was advertised as being on standard rootstock. When I asked them about the rootstock, they said it was mm111. In most circles, that rootstock is considered to be a semi dwarf, yet they called it full sized. I should also mention that this was not a small obscure nursery - it was a major retailer. So the nomenclature that we all sometimes believe to be sacred is not necessarily always that way. One man's dwarf may be another man's giant.:)
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2017
  15. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    The following link is not of much interest to me, but I thought some of you guys might like it. I'm more interested in graft incompatibility in terms of DR and tree health.

    However, this guy at the following link is interested in how the actual size and taste of the fruit can be affected. I think it's cool how he went back and researched all that old information from the 1800s.

    I like the truth of the 1800s better than the falsehoods of today. :D

    Enjoy......

    https://elizapples.com/2016/12/04/rootstocks-do-they-impact-flavor/
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
  16. buckvelvet

    buckvelvet Active Member

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    All of my main orchard is antonovka, ranetka, b118, rootstock (aside from 2 on
    Malus coronaria). Im really not to worried as this is all for fun, no commercial expectations or investment here.

    My trees at my house are on m7 with 2 on g30.


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  17. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Same here: A quote from me in Post #1, "...I really have no personal interest in becoming a commercial grower."

    And I'm having more fun than a barrel of monkeys...........


    I did consider m7 once until I saw where a horticulturist with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commissionan described it as a "...noxious weed...." and said that 30% of them would fall over if they weren't trellised.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
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  18. buckvelvet

    buckvelvet Active Member

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    Lol i wouldnt go with that thought since m7 was a more highly used in the industry until g series came about.

    I have some m7 that stand up just fine.

    I dont have that kind of time for a trellis! Lol....

    It is fun aint it!


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  19. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Like I said - more fun than a barrel of monkeys...........;)
     
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  20. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    buckvelvet, if you want to see where the "noxious weed" comment came from I found it for you. Looks like the guy she quoted is a horticulturist with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission.

    http://www.goodfruit.com/get-it-right-at-planting/

    Best wishes - Steve
     

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