Apple and pears are the most common tree planted in the upper Himachal Pradesh right from the year 1950, in these fruit trees pruning plays a very major role as it removes the unwanted shoots, dead branches, put the tree back into shape, gives stronger structure for the harvest and increases air circulation and sunlight for the healthy yield of the fruit.
Pruning is mainly for apples and pears trees. Pruning should be carried out when the tree is dormant; the dormant phase is when the tree is “sleeping”, this occurs in the winter, between leaf fall and bud burst (between November and early March). Winter is a key time for pruning trees to keep them healthy. When the leaves are off the trees, damage while harvesting, from the snowfall, winter is the season to prune trees to strengthen the tree and clean up the damage caused. Trees store energy in other tissues once they lose their leaves. Any injury, like a pruning cut, becomes a priority for the stored energy. The plant uses the stored reserves to compartmentalize and close off that injury. During the winter most of the plant’s fuel can be directed at healing the pruning cut. Winter pruning gives more time for wounds to close and harden-off. This is important so wood boring insects can’t easily damage a tree. Fire-blight enters trees through open wounds. Winter pruning lets the wound close and reduces the risk of fire-blight infection. The type of pruning technique depends on whether the tree fruits on spurs or towards the tips of shoots made the previous summer.
There are two goals when pruning apple trees
For young trees it encourages a strong and solid framework for maturity.
On mature trees to maintain the shape, encourage healthy fruit production and to remove waste shoots/branches, channelize energy.
It does not matter what types of trees you have, is a spur- or tip-bearer, the first stage of winter pruning is the same for most of the trees in Himachlal
Use a sharp pair of pruners, a pruning saw and farm stair (for fully grown trees).
Start by removing crossing, rubbing, weak, dead branches, diseased, damaged and dying branches /shoots.
Keep the center of the tree open by removing larger branches with a sharp pruning saw. If several large branches need to be removed, spread the work over two or three winters as very hard pruning encourages even more vigorous growth and apply paste (paint) this will prevent water to enter.
Limb positioning (Structure Positioning) is very important because it determines whether the branch will produce primarily fruit or vegetation in long run and defines the shape of tree. When branches grow straight, they produce mostly vegetative growth and little fruit. Generally, branches that grow straight out from the apple tree are very fruitful, but produce little new vegetative growth. The ideal limb position is about 30° above horizontal, creating a 60° angle. It allows maximum apple production while still promoting growth of new wood for future fruiting. Pruning should be used to open “windows” to allow light, air circulation to penetrate throughout the tree. When all of the leaves are exposed to more light, the tree is able to produce higher quality apple. But, be careful not to remove too many branches, as pruning apple tree can stimulate excess re-growth in coming months. When a portion of a branch is removed, the tree responds by producing new growth. Generally seen three or four branches will grow where one grew before, resulting “grow and cut” cycle. Excess re-growth can be minimized through proper cuts and by cutting into the older wood were possible, it cannot be entirely avoided
Pruning –Small or Newly Planted Trees
The goal of this is to prompt the tree to grow in height and to encourage a strong and solid framework for later years. After planting or during the first winter before the tree breaks from dormancy in spring you must cut back the 1-year tree, it is known as “heading” or “topping”. This has two benefits. Firstly it restores the energy and balance of the tree between the top part and the roots, since the roots naturally get disturbed during the plantation process. Secondly, it encourages taking shape through side-branches to form at the correct height for the growing tree. It may feel absurd to do this, since in effect you are cutting a new tree in half and cutting of it away – but it is the best part to do so. One would prune right before the buds begin to pop. This time, new growth will be about 4 or 5 inches. One would look to see which the most upright shoot is and that will be the one that will be the central leader. It should not be touched. Any new shoots that are growing 3 or 4 inches, below it should be cut so that they are not completion for the one that you have identified as the central o
Summer pruning apples and pears allow sunlight to ripen the fruit and ensure good cropping the following year. Summer pruning involves the selective removal of leafy shoots during the growing season. Summer pruning can accomplish the following:
(a) Reduce the pressure and force of the tree
(b) promote development of other major shoots,
(c) Helps in strengthen fruit and favor flower bud development, and
(d) direct the growth of selected shoots.
Summer prune when the bottom third of the new shoots is stiff and woody. This will be from mid-may for pears and the third week in June/July for apple. Summer pruning involves cutting back new shoots to allow light to reach the fruits. Judge the exact timing according to the vigor of the plant, the weather and locality
Fruit Thinning and Biennial Bearing
Thinning fruits mostly done in biennial bearing or if the crop is bumper is much less effective, than thinning the fruit buds in early spring. It has the benefit of increasing the average size of remaining fruits, and is often done for this reason alone. Biennial bearing occurs in fruit trees where they carry a heavy crop one year and little or none the next. Without a crop to support in any one year, trees use their resources to produce flower buds leading to tremendous flowering. This result in heavy crop reduces the tree’s resources so that little blossom is made the following year. This is a common disorder with apples and pears but can occur with a range of tree fruits.
Sometimes, an apple tree grows so much fruit that it weighs down branches, sometimes branches can break ,also it does not allow enough sunlight to come in as a result this can lead to a bad crop or size of the fruits is too small. For this reason, one must thin out the tree carefully. The goal should be to cut out extra weight that is not really needed and would actually even cause the tree to break if left unchecked due to increasing weight and tree can be damaged.
When we look at an apple blossom up close, you will notice that it is actually a group (called a cluster) of 5 to 6 blossoms. Here apples should be thinning when they are only the small size. When you do this, you may worry that there is not enough fruit remaining and you don’t do it your fruit quality will fuller badly e.g. size of fruits. However, remember that this will cause you to be able to harvest a higher quality apple and also it will reduce potential disease and insect problems. Also, when this is done, it ensures that you will have a nice, full crop the next season this can be an only cure for Biennial bearing.