Orchard Report Fourayes Farm: Spring 2017

We are emerging from an early spring which has been colder than normal. The bees have struggled to find small windows of warm weather to pollinate the Bramley.

The outlook is a lighter crop. The winter was a very dry, one of our driest ever. We finished our pruning quicker than normal. Our new bramley orchard was planted in February with trees at 11 foot by 3 foot intervals and all on stakes.

The spring was colder and also very dry. Our new orchard was about to suffer the effects of drought but then our compost mulch arrived. We had 3 episodes of heavy rain, the last of which was 25mm in one go. This was enough to remove our new orchard from the danger list. The woolley APHID I spoke of before is beginning to come back again, as we thought it would. The chemical Dursban or Chlorpyrifos, which we lost last year, always managed to keep it at bay.

I have been watching with interest an experiment run by BASF the Agrico chemical group. It has been running for about 3 years, using a small plastic clip dispenser attached to the top 1/3rd of the tree. They are called pheromone spoilers and will last all though the season. They are placed on every 2nd bramley tree. We are experimenting with our South Green orchard which is ideally isolated from the rest of the farm. We have 1000 of these plastic clips which will give off an artificially engineered pherome for each type of moth to confuse the male Codling and Summer Fruit Tortrix moths so that each cannot find a female to mate with. The females remain infertile so in this orchard we may not have to spray for these 2 moths for the entire season. Watch this space.

Looking around the farm the young bolter rabbits are out in force and up on last year. I watched 3 small fox cubs play, fighting close to their Earth. The buzzards were circling overhead and while powerharrowing our new orchard I watched a cock pheasant with a very crumpled tail defending his two hen birds against a young rival for an hour. It looked very exhausting.

Ian Witherden at Fourayes Farm