Training Fruit Trees using the Solaxe System

Many positive results are being achieved using what’s known as the “Solaxe system” to increase productivity from fruit trees. On a recent tour of the Catoctin Mountain Orchard north of Frederick, owner Robert Black noted how innovations over the years have increased quality, size, and quantity of fruit using techniques that also keep the trees more compact for easier harvest.

Credit: - Tom Anderson

These apple trees at Catoctin Orchard are similar and more compact than in the past. Apple trees now use the Solaxe system to increase quality, size, and quantity of fruit from fruit trees.

Earlier practices to improve fruit production include pruning to allow new branches to develop and produce fruit, and training the trees for horizontal branch growth to allow easier harvest. Because they are more widely planted, much research and experimentation has been done with apple trees, and then adopted for use with other fruit trees.

In France, experiments with apple production found that the bending downwards of branches helped to increase the quality and quantity of fruit production. This technique, known as the Solaxe system, was developed in France in the 1990s.

SolAxe gets its name from Sol (for sunlight) and axis (for the central leader or trunk). About the second year after planting, the trees are pruned and trained. Branches are pruned of shoots close to the trunk and of other larger shoots, which allows sunlight to penetrate the tree along its central axis. Branches are removed to allow space between them, and the remaining branches are tied down to bend them below the horizontal.

When the fruit tree branches are bent downwards, flowering occurs more at the terminal ends, resulting in fruit production towards the end of the branch. After initial Solaxe pruning and training, the fruit trees do not require much, if any, pruning in subsequent years. Decreasing the spacing between planted trees also limits their height. As Black notes, the bending down of the branches almost stops the branch growth, putting the energy of the tree into production of fruit.

Being heavily laden with fruit, the branches maintain their downward bend in future years while making the fruit readily available for harvest. The Solaxe system is now widely used in the U.S. and internationally.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Note for 9/18/2016