Jul 18, 2017
Cherries a focus of second day on IFTA tour

The second day of the International Fruit Tree Association’s 2017 Michigan Study Tour focused on the northern area of what is typically called “Peach Ridge,” or the Fruit Ridge.

Don Armock, Charlie Steffens and Justin Finkler hosted the group at Riverridge Land Company’s Grant location.

The operation with locations in Grant and Sparta has a total of 520 acres of apples in production, 22 acres of newly-planted apples, 12 acres of sweet cherries.

Riveridge family of companies is comprised of several entities, including Riveridge Produce Marketing, Riveridge Packing and Riverridge Land Companies 1 and 2.

Michigan State University (MSU) and Greg Lang is working with Riveridge to develop sweet cherry fruiting wall orchards. Planted in 2016-17, the V-trellis, 14-wire system features 338 trees each of Ebony Pearl/Giesela 5, Burgundy Pearl/Giesela 5 and Radiance Pearl/Giesela 5. Canopy training systems include Espalier (ESP) – a single leader per side of V with multiple horizontal fruiting laterals; Upright Fruiting Offshoots (UFO) with a single cordon with multiple vertical fruiting leaders; B-Axis (UFO) with dual cordons with multiple vertical fruiting leaders; and Kym Green Bush (KBG-V), with multiple vertical leaders created by repeated heading.

Bill Nyblad and family hosted the tour at New Leaf orchards, comprised of three generations of fruit growers, including Bill, Nick and Gunnar. Together they run 450 acres of fruit consisting of apples, peaches, plums, as well as sweet and tart cherries.

Recently, New Leaf also started growing multiple varieties of hops.

While the orchard’s top apple variety is Gala, the farm raises many different varieties. The Nyblads have been leaders in planting multi-leader apple plantings after Bill toured Italy to view their Bi-axe plantings.

Rasch Family Orchards was a tour stop hosted by Don, Jake and Nick Rasch. They displayed their apricot and peaches V-trellis system. Today they have 500 acres of fruit on five main farms. Mike Dietrich and his family are partners with brother Jim.

Jim, Curtis, AJ and Phil Dietrich showcased operations at Leo Dietrich & Sons at its Laketon Farm. Currently, the farm has grown to cover 16 varieties of apples and is on the cutting edge of the industry’s demand for new market options. Showcased were the operation’s high density sweet cherries, with pruning and hedging displays along with updates on plant growth regulator trials conducted in partnership with Michigan State University’s Phil Schwallier.

The final day of the tour Tuesday makes stops at MSU’s Clarksville research facility as well as George Sundin’s plots in East Lansing.

Follow live updates on Twitter @FGNews.

Photo above: Riveridge Land Co.’s Justin Finkler talks about the company’s sweet cherry fruiting wall orchards. Photo: Gary Pullano

Gary Pullano, Managing Editor

See more from the IFTA Summer Tour:

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