Training and Pruning Apple Trees

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Proper training and pruning of trees is a major component of a profitable apple orchard operation. Successful pruning is an art based upon scientific principles of tree growth and physiology and an experienced understanding of tree response to various pruning cuts and practices. Each tree is an individual and should be treated accordingly. Varieties differ in growth characteristics and response to pruning cuts, rootstocks, soil, and growing conditions. It is important that orchard designs, objectives, and goals be clearly defined and that pruning principles are developed accordingly. Mediumto high-density plantings require greater commitment to detailed training and pruning than low-density orchards and should not be attempted unless such a commitment is made. 

There are several training systems for apple. The training system discussed in this publication is the central leader, which is the most common system in commercial orchards and is easily adapted to non-commercial situations. The central leader system is used for freestanding trees on the relatively vigorous standard and semi-dwarf rootstocks.

Richard P. Marini
Virginia Cooperative Extension