21. July 2023

Water: Elixir of life and of apples - Water availability & quality (part 1)

A thirst-quenching apple thrives on clean water

From heatwaves to frost, watering at exactly the right moment has saved many an apple harvest. In the future as in the present, water will continue to be vital to the cultivation of apples — and, as such, their survival is entirely hinged upon the availability of a sufficient water supply.

Climate change and the rise in the world’s population have made water a precious resource which must not be wasted under any circumstances; modern technology is of great assistance in managing this vital resource with due responsibility, as is a mindful approach to our natural world. The increasingly common usage of drip-irrigation systems and tensiometers to measure moisture levels of soil make it possible to irrigate the land using only the minimum indispensable quantity of water that crispy, crunchy apples need to thrive.

All water is not created equal

Apples are 85% water, which is why they have such a solid reputation as thirst-quenchers. This is also why it is vital to use top-quality water when irrigating apple trees.

Young apple trees need an abundance of water in order to grow strong roots, leaves and, lastly, fruit; as a rule of the thumb, young apple trees need more water than older trees which, in comparatively rainy regions, can generally survive on rainwater alone. In drier region, apple trees should be watered around once a week from late spring through to autumn. Apple trees require virtually half their annual water supply in the summer months alone.

Over the past 30 years, commercial apple orchards have been adopting a drip or micro-irrigation system; At the time of writing, 60% of apple orchards in the United States use sprinkler systems, with the main advantage being that they protect the flower buds from frost. These modern systems are generally capable of irrigating the entire orchard area.

The climate factor

The South Tyrolean Advisory Service for Fruit Production and Winegrowing works in close cooperation with the Laimburg Research Institute and farming cooperatives in order to provide farmers with optimal advice and assistance. The matter of the climate does not go ignored: “The amount of rainfall exerts a significant influence on water requirements in agriculture. However, the advent of modern technological supports such as purpose-designed drip systems, and sophisticated measuring techniques in orchards and vineyards can save a considerable amount of water,” explains Bernhard Botzner from the Advisory Service.


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