Fruit grow­ing around Lake Con­stance

This area known as the Bo­densee in Ger­many, is a very im­por­tant fruit grow­ing area for both Ger­many and Switzer­land.

The Orchardist - - Contents - By John Wil­ton

It is around 300 to 400m above sea level with much of the land sur­round­ing the lake slop­ing gen­tly to­wards it. This gives good cold air drainage to­wards the lake, while the lake it­self mod­er­ates the tem­per­a­tures so it is a mi­cro cli­mate which usu­ally suits fruit pro­duc­tion.

This year the heavy frosts in late April which swept through north­ern Europe dec­i­mated their crops. Over­all, losses on the Ger­man side of the lake are es­ti­mated to be in the or­der of 50% with some crops wiped out. The Swiss side of the

lake has fared bet­ter, prob­a­bly be­cause there are fewer frost pock­ets on that side. Also, as the frost was caused by a cold air mass mov­ing down from the north, the air tem­per­a­tures may have been lifted a bit as they crossed over the lake.

Among va­ri­eties, Royal Gala types have come through the frost much bet­ter than other va­ri­eties and is not far be­low a full crop on many or­chards. Brae­burn, an­other of their main va­ri­eties has been se­verely af­fected, which is very bad news for them be­cause of the ad­verse ef­fect the light crops and re­sul­tant high tree vigour will have on stor­age dis­or­ders,

which even in a nor­mal sea­son give them quite a lot of grief. They al­ready have a lot of prob­lem with Brae­burn brown­ing dis­or­der (BBD) with sig­nif­i­cant losses when fruit is stored longer than two to three months. The light crops this year will prob­a­bly in­crease BBD sus­cep­ti­bil­ity.

There is a lot of in­ter­est in branded and “club” va­ri­eties. High colour Fuji mar­keted un­der the Kiku brand is giv­ing very sat­is­fac­tory re­turns, whereas stan­dard Fuji re­turns are well be­low cost of pro­duc­tion at around Euro 0.17 (NZ$0.28) per kilo or­chard gate re­turn. Kanzi is an im­por­tant va­ri­ety for them how­ever, it is very sus­cep­ti­ble to Euro­pean Canker which gives them a lot of grief.

Although not specif­i­cally men­tioned to me, I sus­pect that Jon­agold, par­tic­u­larly the red strains are a ma­jor va­ri­ety as this va­ri­ety has been widely planted through­out north­ern

Europe. Prog­nos­fruit crop es­ti­mates in­di­cate that over the whole of Europe the Jon­agold crop will be down around 40% or more. Other newer va­ri­eties be­ing planted in­clude Pi­nova, red strains of El­star and Opal ® .

All or­chards are in­ten­sively planted on dwarf­ing root­stocks, gen­er­ally the weaker grow­ing strains of Malling 9 such as M9 T337. Tree den­sity is around about 3,000 trees per hectare on sin­gle leader spin­dle bush train­ing sys­tems. In gen­eral, or­chardists in this area tend to be rather con­ser­va­tive so you do not see the range of plant­ing sys­tems we see here. They have a good in­ten­sive sys­tem which is sim­ple and works well for them, so they stick with it.

Rain­fall is rel­a­tively high with much of it fall­ing over the sum­mer months, so there is lit­tle need for ir­ri­ga­tion. Many or­chards lack ac­cess to suf­fi­cient water sup­ply so can­not ir­ri­gate or use water for frost pro­tec­tion. There is quite a lot of in­ter­est in or­ganic pro­duc­tion among the fruit grow­ers in this re­gion, hence the in­ter­est in Topaz and Opal ® , va­ri­eties which have some dis­ease tol­er­ance.


I was for­tu­nate to ac­com­pany Michael We­ber, a con­sul­tant spe­cial­is­ing in the in­tro­duc­tion and man­age­ment of new fruit va­ri­eties to an open day at the Swiss Fruit Re­search Cen­tre for this area. This sta­tion has a huge range of va­ri­eties on it in­clud­ing many of our va­ri­eties.

“In gen­eral, or­chardists in this area tend to be rather con­ser­va­tive so you do not see the range of plant­ing sys­tems we see here. They have a good in­ten­sive sys­tem which is sim­ple and works well for them, so they stick with it.”

New Zealand va­ri­eties be­ing looked at were Galaxy Royal Gala which is now one of their stan­dard va­ri­eties, Scifresh, Scilate, sev­eral Brae­burn strains in­clud­ing Mariri Red and Rockit ® . There were also many Euro­pean va­ri­eties. Th­ese in­cluded Ro­bijn Jon­agold, a red strain, Sir­ius from the Czech Repub­lic and its si­b­ling Opal ® , Mochi ® , an Ital­ian Gala/Lib­erty

cross, Green­star ® , Del­corf/Granny Smith from Bel­gium, Kanzi ® also from Bel­gium, Golden Clone B and Golden Parsi, both strains of Golden De­li­cious, Milwa and Topaz.

Although pears are not widely grown in the district, there was some pear va­ri­ety test­ing un­der way. One new pear va­ri­ety which showed a lot of prom­ise was CH201, a Swiss bred va­ri­ety from a cross between Verdi and Har­row Sweet a Cana­dian fire­b­light tol­er­ant va­ri­ety. This va­ri­ety has a red blush and ap­peared to have set a full crop in spite of the frost.

Due to its lat­i­tude and al­ti­tude the har­vest sea­son in this area is sev­eral weeks later than fruit grow­ing ar­eas south of the Alps. Royal Gala har­vest was ex­pected to oc­cur in the first week of Septem­ber, equiv­a­lent to early March here. At the time, I was there in mid-Au­gust, south­ern Euro­pean Royal Gala, par­tic­u­larly Spanish fruit, were read­ily avail­able in the shops, along with lo­cal early ap­ple va­ri­eties such as Graven­stein.

Among Gala strains, Galaxy was widely planted but it was said that it was be­ing re­placed in new plant­ings by an Ital­ian trade­marked strain called Sch­niga ® which was thought to have bet­ter colour, although still a striped colour strain. As here the striped Royal Gala strains were show­ing some colour re­ver­sion problems.


The re­search sta­tion was us­ing pheromone dis­rup­tion for codling moth con­trol with very good re­sults. A num­ber of dif­fer­ent dis­pensers were be­ing tri­alled in­clud­ing the aerosol dis­penser “Iso­mate CM Mis­ter” which re­quire two to three per hectare. This dis­penser was pro­grammed to only dis­pense the pheromone at times and un­der con­di­tions when codling moths were ac­tively fly­ing giv­ing sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings on ma­te­ri­als.


Sup­port struc­tures are de­signed to carry hail net as well as sup­port trees. Posts are ei­ther full round wooden or pre­stressed con­crete. In or­der to give a sta­ble struc­ture strong enough to sup­port hail net the whole sup­port struc­ture is tied to­gether by wires or ca­bles run­ning across the rows. Screw an­chors are used to tie down the whole struc­ture. Sup­port posts are 6 to 9m apart and have poly­thene caps to pre­vent chaffing dam­age to the nets they sup­port.

Be­cause snow of­ten oc­curs over the win­ter, hail nets are rolled up to the cen­tre wire af­ter the crop is har­vested. This is a pretty stan­dard sup­port sys­tem I have seen in many Euro­pean fruit grow­ing ar­eas.


As well as ap­ples, which are the main crop, the area is im­por­tant for berry fruits of which straw­ber­ries are the main crop. There are about 200 hectares of cher­ries on the Ger­man side of the lake mainly grown on dwarf­ing root­stocks such as Gisela 5 and 6. It is a dif­fi­cult area in which to grow cher­ries be­cause of its high rain­fall. Kor­dia and Regina are im­por­tant cherry va­ri­eties.

Euro­pean plums, usu­ally of the prune type were also seen.

From left: Fig 1. A gen­eral view of the Bo­densee fruit grow­ing area. Young cher­ries are in the fore­ground, the lake in the mid­dle and Switzer­land on the other shore. Fig 2. This Brae­burn crop has been badly dam­aged by spring frost. Fruit is large, tree...

Fig 11. The cross tie an­chor sys­tem used in Euro­pean or­chard sup­port sys­tems. Note the screw an­chors im­me­di­ately be­low the an­gled strainer posts and the weed mat along the row between the an­chors and the tree row.

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