Branchless multi-leader apple tree

This manual shows the orchardist step-by-step, how to develop and train the branchless multi–leader apple tree.


This manual shows the orchardist step-by-step how to develop and train the branchless multi–leader apple tree.

The manual can be followed by unskilled orchard workers.
The branchless multi–leader apple tree is a relatively new training system in Australia and will be progressively updated.
  • More than 200 pages of information, photos and illustrations
  • File download: 15 Mb
  • Updated and expanded: August 2020

    Topics covered in the manual

    What is a branch?

    What are the problems with branches?

    • A: Branch manipulation
    • B: Angles and sizes of branches and limbs
    • C: Angles and positions of branches and limbs
    • D: Branches & limbs with different growth habits
    • E: Dormant heading cuts create vigour
    • F: Bent branches and sunburn of apples

    Benefits of a branchless multi-leader tree

    Different parts of a branchless tree

    • What are fruiting units?
    • Fruiting units of branchless multi-leader trees
    • What is a spur?
    • What are vegetative spurs?
    • What are reproductive or fruiting spurs?
    • What is known about spur leaves?
    • What role do shoot leaves play?
    • What are axillary and terminal buds?
    • Not all floral buds are the same

    Making good use of sunlight

    Upright vs Angled canopies

    How many leaders per tree?

    Choice of rootstock & suggestions

    What is Apple Replant Disease (ARD) NEW

    • Overcoming ARD
    • Rootstocks
    • Remove old roots
    • Phosphorus
    • Crop rotation
    • Fallow
    • Chemical treatments

    Branchless two–leader trees on an upright trellis and on Open Tatura

    Tree training: First year — two leaders per tree

    • Planting
    • Leader selection
    • Guiding the leaders up the strings
    • Materials for canopy & tree support
    • Remove any sylleptic shoots
    • Remove any new shoots
    • Select leaders of equal size
    • Maximise canopy surface area
    • Using two branches developed in the nursery

    Tree Training: Year 2 — give the head a good start

    • De-blossom and de-fruit the trees
    • Controlled canopy development
    • Create fruiting units,force growth of new shoots
    • Support the leaders
    • Canopy development

    Tree Training: Year 2 — the bench cut

    The dormant 2-year-old tree: Leaders are dressed with young fruiting units

    How to deal with a few semi-strong shoots to become fruiting units

    Plant polliniser trees

    The branchless four-leader tree

    Tree Training: Year 3 — for trees with two or four leaders

    • STEP 1: Create fruiting units in the upper part of the leaders with a foliar spray of Cytolin
    • STEP 2: Pluck the apical portion of the leaders
    • STEP 3: Score

    Prune trees in winter to consistently maintain high yields of target fruit

    • Renewal pruning
    • The 1,2,3, rule
    • Artificial spur extinction, a type of spur pruning
    • Spur trimming, a type of spur pruning


    How many apples to leave on young trees after thinning

    • 1. Predict potential crop load from tree size
    • 2. Predict potential crop load from the interception of sunlight by trees
    • 3. Thin fruit and monitor fruit growth

    Benchmarks for marketable yields

    Thinking of grafting-over?

    Tree nutrition

    Replacing nutrient losses from harvested fruit

    Nitrogen for branchless apple trees

    Make good use of nitrogen fertiliser NEW

    • Different forms of liquid
    • Timing of applications
    • Efficient methods of application
    • Fertigation
    • Tree-line applications
    • Foliar application

    Avoid making soil acidic when applying nitrogen fertiliser NEW

    • Select N fertiliser to suit the soil pH
    • Check soil pH before planting; apply lime if required

    Calcium: in the soil, tree and fruit

    Crop load management: pruning and thinning

    • Pruning
    • Thinning

    What happens to trees after harvest?

    What causes biennial bearing?

    What is water core?

    Avoid skin russet

    How do apples turn red or pink? 

    • Sunlight
    • Temperature

    Sunburn symptoms and control

    Hail net

    • The benefits of hail net
    • Crop load
    • Bee activity
    • Type of hail net/structure/shape
    • Colour of net

    Water & stress

    When are apples ready to harvest - Nine maturity tests

    Six steps to prepare soil before planting

    • STEP 1. Have your soils tested
    • STEP 2. Grade your block (if necessary)
    • STEP 3. Apply lime, gypsum, rip and cultivate the soil
    • STEP 4. Hill up the surface soil
    • STEP 5. Sow ryegrass or let weeds develop
    • STEP 6. Spray out ryegrass or weeds before planting

    Soil organic matter

    How useful is a soil test?

    Keep Phytophthora out of your orchard NEW

    • Collar rot and crown rot of apple trees
    • Preventative measures
    • Chemical control