Orchard Floor Management
The orchard floor is both a work surface for orchard operations, and an important biological zone that supports productive trees.
An ideal orchard floor would be easy to maintain, aid the growth of the trees and nuts, maintain the soil structure of the orchard, and not compete with the trees for water and nutrients nor harbor insects or other pests.
Management practices for orchard floor maintenance should be done in a timely manner during the lifetime of the orchard. Consider the soil type, slope, age of trees, irrigation and harvesting methods at the time to decide which orchard floor management system best adapts to your orchard.
Several general systems for managing orchard floors are available:
- Intercropping (see Intercropping in Introduction section for more information)
- Ground cover crops (see ground cover in Orchard Establishment section for more information)
- Mulches in the tree row (see Weed Management in Orchard Establishment section for more information)
- Herbicide control (see Weed Management section for more information)
- Sucker control
Weed management is critical to ensuring the good health of a hazelnut orchard. Weeds reduce nutrient availability, interfere with tree growth, and reduce hand-harvesting efficiency. To control weeds, a common practice is to apply herbicides down the tree row. Another method is the use of flail mowers, which help to reduce growth of weeds.
Flail mowers are used to chop vegetation down to ground level, mulch leaves & blanks and eliminate old nuts on the orchard's ground cover.
When to flail?
- Flail 30 days prior to harvest, to smooth the orchard floor and to eliminate blanks
- After harvest and about 4-6 times per season depending upon growth of ground cover
- Only flail growth to within 0.6 cm of soil to minimize competition for moisture
- Remove vegetation; the less vegetation, the less moisture usage by weeds and more moisture available to the trees
- If you are using a cover crop and are planning to flail, plan to leave approximately 2.5 cm crop
It is sometimes desirable to cultivate and level in new orchards for one or two years before using the flail. Cultivation in orchards should start as soon as soil is dry enough to work and cultivate only enough to control weeds and never at a depth of more than 4” (10 cm). Constant tilling will reduce the macro-pores in the soil and may lead to soil compaction especially after heavy rain falls. As well that may reduce the roots of the trees which start growing into the in between row space. Prepare a level and compact orchard floor as early as possible to avoid loss of moisture. Roll the orchard floor firmly prior to harvest
Suckers are shoots sent up from the base of the tree. For the first 2 years suckers can be removed by pruning in the winter. After the second year, suckers can be controlled by spraying them with an herbicide during the growing season. Spray when the suckers are six to nine inches tall (15 to 23 cm). Most orchards require three to four treatments per year.
For specific herbicides registered for use in hazelnuts see Weed Management section