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The intensive apple growing in Trentino Alto Adige
The intensive apple growing practised in Trentino Alto Adige region have led to exceptional results. In each hectare of land are planted between 3,000 to 4,000 apple trees.
Nowadays, most of the region orchards have been cultivated with the method of integrated farming. As a result, each year the apple farmers produce about 1,500,000 tons of apples that represent 70% of the Italian production and 15% of the European production. The region’s agricultural landscapes have progressively moved from mixed cultivations to entirely apple trees cultivations.
The costs reduction is one of the goals pursued by the farmers; it is achieved through the control of apple trees growth that free space for other trees planting. This practice translates into increased yields and also an earlier production entry of young plants (harvesting can start as early as in the same year of planting).
The Melinda consortium: growing intensive apple orchards
The 98% of the apple production in Noce Valleys is managed by the Melinda consortium, an organisation of producers whose vital structure is made up of member farmers, namely of around 5.200 families of fruit-farmers who live and grow apple trees in the Noce Valleys (Val di Non and Val di Sole). Every year, the members deliver their harvest to their Cooperative, one of the 16 that make up the Melinda Consortium, to which they delegate organisation and management of all procedures downstream of harvest (storage, refrigerated storage, selection, packaging, dispatch, promotion, sales, administration, purchases, HR management, etc.).
Every year, in autumn, the farmers collect as many as 300,000 tons of apples. They produce only five apple varieties characterised by uniform size and colours. Each apple “wears” the distinctive blue label, which since 1989 distinguishes the Melinda apples from those of the rest of the world. Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Renetta Canada are currently the most widely produced varieties that in recent years have been integrated with New Gala and Fuji varieties.
To qualify for collective mark protection, the fruits produced by the members of the “Consorzio Melinda” must conform to certain quality and aesthetic criteria which differentiate the fruits with the Melinda label. Conscious of the need to increase the homogeneity of the quality of Melinda products, the Consortium decided to exclusively produce and market apples. It adopted strict regulation (“product specifications”) ranging from rules governing producers and growing techniques to quality control and packaging, which all members must respect in order to use the Melinda brand on their apples.
Melinda® apples, emphasis on monoculture farming getting bigger yields: what are the consequences?
The dieback of apple trees, soil tiredness, grafting failures, pollution from chemical residues from the agro-chemical products and also from environmental origin, are among the most concerning problems in apple cultivations. They affect the quality and quantity of the productions and ultimately the farm’s income.
- RESOLUTION OF THE APPLE TREE DIEBACK
The apple tree dieback is a phenomenon that manifests itself from the years 2008-2009 in many apple orchards of the north of Italy, including in the fruit districts of Noce Valleys.
From year to year, in the last decade, the phenomenon of the apple tree dieback has interested in a variable levels many young plants in the whole valleys. In some orchards, the dieback affected 80% of the apple trees.
Each year the plants re-grafting did not solve the problem, and often the new apple trees showed the dieback symptoms again after a short time.
The use of Bio Aksxter® proved to be extremely efficient to counteract the dieback in apple trees, both in prevention and rehabilitation phases. In case of re-grafting combined with the use of Bio Aksxter®, the return of dieback was not recorded. In the first year of Bio Aksxter® applications in apple trees affected by dieback, there was a reduction of at least 90% of the number of affected plants. In the following years, it was determined the complete resolution of the problem.
For example, in an orchard in Monclassico (Trentino) in the previous two years before the use of Bio Aksxter®, 700 out of 3000 plants died. After the first year of Bio Aksxter® applications, only 20 plants died, from the following year’s none at all. In the same area, adult apple trees strongly affected by dieback and selected to be eradicated have recovered completely and today are still productive.
- THE INTENSIVE APPLE GROWING AND THE SOIL EXHAUSTION
After about half a century of intensive agriculture, one of the most serious problems in apple cultivation is the soil fatigue or soil exhaustion, which is particularly noticeable after planting new plants. One of the most common farming practice is to eradicate the old apple trees in autumn and planting new trees in the following spring. After 3 or 4 times the result start to be unsatisfactory. The most common issues are poor vegetative activities, a late production entry, greater diseases vulnerability and plants that are permanently stunted and with low production.
On the other hand, in apple orchards cultivated with Bio Aksxter®, the re-planting of new apple trees has always been successful. In fact, all the young plants always have rapid development of thick root system already after a few weeks.
The yield results of the first year (second year from planting) are always excellent: the production is never less than 6 kg/plant in apple orchards situated over 500 meters of height and about 8-10 kg in the rest of the valleys. The best results were obtained with Golden Delicious grown in Tassullo (Trentino), in the second year after planting the production was 12.5 kg/plant and 15.8 kg/plant in the following year.
- QUANTITATIVE RESULTS AND ECONOMIC RETURNS
Every year the Melinda cooperatives provide to each member a production report showing both the absolute yields and the yields per hectare and a comparison between the average figures of the cooperative. The data collected in the 2015-2016 apple productions shows that for all the varieties cultivated with Bio Aksxter® the economic yields are always clearly above the averages, despite the fact that the production of several lots was even depreciated because hit by hail. In the tabulations provided to the farmers, the use of Bio Aksxter® has shown an average profit increase of 33.4%, paying back up to 15 times the fertilisation costs.
- QUALITATIVE RESULTS
The commercial quality of the Melinda® apples is given by the characteristics of conformity, size and coloration from which the commercial value derives and therefore the price.
The use of Bio Aksxter ®, together with general agronomic practices such as correct pruning and precise use of fertilisers allows farmers to earn about 4-5 cents/kg more, compared to the average earning. The increase in profits is also consequent to the rise of fruit size and the reduction of penalising parameters such us under or over-ripening fruit colours. Below an example of Golden Delicious harvest 2016 in the first year of Bio Aksxter® use.
- ELIMINATION OF CHEMICAL RESIDUES
All the apple growers of Val di Non using Bio Aksxter® in the various sample tests, have never received reports about the presence of chemical residues in their apples outside the permitted limits. To find out more about the residue free farming, read: “Chemical residues in agricultural products: how to eliminate them?”
For example, one farmer wanted to test Bio Aksxter® efficacy to break down the chemical residues from the apples. He brought a sample of Golden Delicious to test for Dithianon ten days before the harvest, in the analysis performed, the values of Dithianon was a fifth of the permitted limits. Besides, the values of all others active ingredients used during the year (approximately 25 applications with various fungicides and insecticides) were undetected and their values were zero.
Melinda® apples: is natural apple farming possible?
The use of Bio Aksxter®, considering the highly exhausted soils, has shown high effectiveness in solving serious problems affecting the agricultural productions and the apple farming.
The regular use of Bio Aksxter®, show improvements of the qualitative parameters (increase in size, homogeneity), and reduction of the penalising parameters (under and over-ripening), increased yields, elimination of chemical residues from the plant-soil-environment system.
Ultimately, the use of Bio Aksxter® has concretely shown that apple growing can still be highly profitable. The Melinda® consortium comparisons have shown the increase in profits/ha of farms that use Bio Aksxter®, compared to those who do not use it.
This post is also available in: Italiano