On my farm we have a general policy to replant five percent of our farm every spring, which means that our oldest trees are only twenty years old. There are a couple of different factors behind why we do this. First, as trees age they suffer more from disease and they produce less fruit, so production on these acres slowly decreases. On the big old roots, which result in the classic full size apple tree, productivity can remain high for close to a century. But, while our new dwarfing roots and small, highly managed apple trees make harvest easier and use fewer inputs, we see productivity decline after only a couple decades, so replanting is one way to maintain fruit production!
The other reason we invest time and energy in replanting is to take advantage of new varieties and to adapt to evolving consumer tastes. When my family first bought our orchard back in ‘94, it came with a mix of Red Delicious, MacIntosh and Spartan. We cut down the last of our MacIntosh trees three years ago to be replaced by Honeycrisp, a relatively new variety. As new people move to North America, our demographics change, and we have seen the demand for tart apples decline, as consumers’ preferences tend toward sweeter, juicier varieties.
So that is why we replant! Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to answer them. The next big job on the farm is hand thinning, which is pulling all the small and ugly fruit off the trees to improve the quality of the remaining fruit. It should keep me busy for the next month or so!