Light interception and yield of sweet cherry and apricot trees grown as a planar cordon orchard system design

ISHS Secretariat
Light interception and yield of sweet cherry and apricot trees grown as a planar cordon orchard system design

Claire Scofield is currently pursuing a Master of Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, while working as a Research Associate at The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, Clyde Research Centre, New Zealand. Her work has a strong focus on pre-harvest and postharvest physiology of stone fruit, particularly cherry and apricot. Her research entitled “Light interception and yield of sweet cherry and apricot trees grown as a planar cordon orchard system design” was presented at the IHC2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Her objective was to quantify light interception properties within a planar canopy system for both cherry and apricot. An additional objective was to understand how and why these properties differ from those of a conventional centre leader planting system of the same age. Previous studies on apricot have shown a strong correlation between fruit quality and light conditions within the canopy. Thus, this study made an initial determination of the orchard light interception and variations across the row alley before more in-depth investigation into the light-fruit relationships within a planar canopy. While proportional whole canopy light interception (% photosynthetically active radiation) for mature conventionally grown apricot and cherry canopies showed high interception up to 85%, as little as 2% of the light reached the lower inner portion of the trees. With almost 100% of the incoming light being intercepted at the trunk, an analysis of the light distribution across the row alley was investigated to understand the total light intercepted within the orchard system. In cherry, the average light interception in a 5-year-old planar cordon canopy varied between 63.6 and 71.9% depending on the row spacing. In a centre leader system of the same age, the average light interception was only 43.6%. When analysing the overall system by assessing the row alley light distribution pattern, the planar cordon system had as little as 15% difference between the centre of the tree and the mid alley compared with a difference of 23% in the centre leader system. The light distribution beneath planar cordon canopies was more uniform than with the centre leader orchard system, where few differences were seen between under-tree and within row alley, suggesting that the growth structure of a planar canopy was more even in comparison to a centre leader canopy. This work was a preliminary inquiry to measure the light environment in young planar systems. Future work aims to determine relationships between light distribution and fruit quality (and its variability) in cherry and apricot.

Claire Scofield won an ISHS Young Minds Award for the best oral presentation at the International Symposium on Evaluation of Cultivars, Rootstocks and Management Systems for Sustainable Production of Deciduous Fruit Crops at IHC2018 in Turkey in August 2018.

Ms. Claire Scofield, 990 Earnscleugh Road, 9391 Alexandra, New Zealand, e-mail:

The article is available in Chronica Horticulturae

sweet cherry
light interception
planar cordon orchard system design
Young Minds Award Winners