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Teagasc offer advice to farmers on traditional orchards

Teagasc in association with Irish Seed Savers Association are holding Five Hour Countryside Management Courses on Traditional Orchards throughout the country over the next two weeks. Over 2,000 farmers have planted approximately 30,000 traditional apple trees under recent agri-environment schemes.

Speaking at the Teagasc Clonakilty Agricultural College at the first of nine courses, Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist explained that mature traditional orchards are a habitat for biodiversity such as moths, butterflies, ladybirds, bees; hedgehogs, hares, snails, bullfinches owls, sparrow and bats. Planting traditional Irish varieties ensures the survival of this valuable pool of genetic resource.

Eoin Keane, Irish Seed Savers Association stressed that early care of new orchards is vital in the juvenile stage, with minimal management in later years. The juvenile stage lasts from three years for trees on smaller rootstock, to ten years for trees on larger rootstock. During this time it is essential that the root zone is kept weed free, in at least one metre radius. Tying and staking must be monitored and adjusted as necessary to prevent the main stem twisting. Tree shaping by pruning is done each winter during the juvenile stage on a dry day. It is important for the long term health of the tree and establishes good long-term fruit bearing capacity. It is skilled work and will vary depending on the long term management plans for the orchard.

Teagasc traditional orchard courses, in association with Irish Seed Savers Association, continue from now until 16 November in Kildalton Agricultural College, Thurles, Ballyconnell, Navan, Wicklow, Enniscorthy, Moorepark and Claremorris. See http://www.teagasc.ie/events

Eoin Keane, Irish Seed Savers Association and John Crowley, Teagasc at the first of a series of Traditional Orchard Courses in Clonakilty Agricultural College.