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Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Improve Fruit Orchards and the Planet

Apple Farm
In the previous post it was mentioned that in future farm owners may be obliged to reserve a portion of their farms for trees that could well be fruit orchards. One disadvantage of orchards as compared to natural forests is that they are low on bio-diversity and as a result they do not contribute as much to improvements in environment as  natural forests. However there is a very simple way to improve both the environment as well as fruit yield from orchards by introducing bio-diversity. If twenty per cent, or even up to 33% of evenly distributed trees are different from the primary crop in an orchard then both the yield and the environment improves. Such orchards may yield up to one and half times the normal yield over the life of the orchard as per the author's estimate just because of improved bio diversity and soil health despite the fact that there are fewer trees of the primary crop. In addition there is the joy of a different fruit for the personal consumption and distribution by the owner if not the market. All that has to be ensured is that the other trees are not taller or wider in girth than the primary orchard tree. If some or all of the other 20 percent are nitrogen fixing trees the gain is likely to be greater (read this http://permaculturenews.org/2008/09/29/nitrogen-fixing-trees-the-multipurpose-pioneers/).

Quite frequently, seeded by animal, bird or breeze a wild tree will come up naturally within an orchard. It is a good idea to leave it in and nurture it as one of the fifth trees. Being natural to the area it will contribute most to bio-diversity. Allowing or introducing wild flowers, berry bushes and mushrooms through the orchard would be even better. The bees will love the flowers and multiply faster. In orchard spaces exceeding ten acres in area do consider a pond with a stream leading to it meandering through the orchard with some fish of an edible variety in it to create the ideal ecology and ground water table as befits our wonderful Mother Earth. May She Bless such an orchard.

Trees that can attract bees to nest are an additional bonus for pollination and that occasional jar of honey to brighten up breakfast and the after dinner desert and health of the farmer and his family. It may be mentioned that neither the fruit nor the honey from single source orchards have the same health benefits as that from a bio-diverse source. The same strategy is recommended for almond, apple, palm and olive oil plantations. Farmers into organic farming may label their produce as oragnic and 'from a bio-diverse orchard' for that additional oomph in their marketing.

To create such an orchard, just plant every fifth tree in a row of a different fruit or timber. In an existing orchard selected trees may be removed to be replaced by others and when a forest is cleared for a plantation just leave in some original trees so that in the end one fifth the trees are the original ones. It may be worth considering if orchard owners should be compelled by law to introduce this bio-diversity. An orchard owner may worry that it would make it difficult to manage the orchard but it would not be so with  the proper layout. A row of other trees can be planted after every two, three or four rows of the primary tree and then the primary tree can be maintained row-wise

Recently infestation is taking place in some olive groves in Europe. The chances of such infestations are reduced in bio-diverse orchards. In warmers regions just planting the Neem tree as one of the alternative trees reduces infection and the need of pesticides.

Photo from http://publicdomainpictures.net


Ramakrishnan Ramanathan said...

Excellent and expert advise ! Ashok this should be circulated to a wider viewership.

ashok said...

Thanks Ramu, I have shared it on twitter and Facebook.