Highlights of the 42nd Annual IDFTA Conference Tours, February 1999, Hamilton, Ontario CANADA

photos by Jon Clements and Win Cowgill



Day 1 -- A pre-conference bus tour to visit Niagara Peninsula tender fruit orchards, the HorticulturalResearch Institute/University of Guelph at Vineland Station, and a Niagara area winery.

 First stop was the J. D. Whitty Farms, where we examined an exemplary dwarf sweet cherry orchard. It was planted in 1997, at 18' X 10' tree spacing, on Gisela 5 and 6 rootstocks. Scion varieties included Viva, Viscount, Vogue, Vandalay, Tehranivee, Lapins, and Sweetheart. Raised beds, staking, mulching, trickle irrigation, growth regulators, and central-leader training -- all techniques to promote initial rapid growth and thereafter heavy cropping -- were discussed in this high market value sweet cherry planting.
 Grimo's Nut Nursery in Niagara-On-The-Lake must count as one of the more unusual IDFTA tour stops. Owner Ernie Grimo is promoting the Heartnut'-- a seed sport of the Japanese walnut -- as a hardy nut variety with commercial potential in the Great Lakes region. The Heartnut is -- as it's name implies -- heart-shaped, easily split, and walnut-like in flavor. On the right, Ernie stand in his half-a-dozen or so tree Heartnut 'orchard,' which he claims has produced the equivalent of 1,700 lbs. per acre of Heartnuts at ten years old. Interesting.  
 Next, we visited a high-density peach planting at Rydal Park Farm, which is adjacent to the Niagara River. Here, Dr. Neil Miles, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) researcher at the Vineland Station explained what they were trying to accomplish with this orchard -- "to develop cultural procedures for the production of peaches from high density orchards of fusetto trained trees." The peach variety is Veecling, a non-melting processing peach, propagated on Bailey rootstock, and planted in 1996 at 4' X 14' for a density of 777 trees/acre. Peach yields were 4 and 7 tonnes per acre in 1997 and 1998 -- considerably larger than from standard orchard of the same age.  
   After lunch (overlooking Niagara Falls) we visited the Horticultural Research Institute of Ontario/University of Guelph Vineland Research Station. There, tour guide Maribeth Fitts, OMAFRA Fruit and Vegetable Specialist, and Vineland Station researcher Bill Lay showed us a Japanese plum training and rootstock trial. Planted in 1993, the trial was established to investigate the relationship between two high density training systems (palmette and Tatura) and size controlling rootstocks (Brompton, Myrobalan B, Pixey, St. Julien A) and how this would affect the productivity of four commercially grown varieties (Early Golden, Ozark Premier, Shiro, Vanier). Average annual yields by variety in the third through fifth years ranged from 3.0 to 4.7 tons/acre, which is considerably higher than the current commercial average of 1.8 tons in Ontario.
 The pre-conference tour wound up with a stop at one of two local wineries. Here, Wally Heuser, former IDFTA President, and now of Summit Sales, pauses before entering Vineland Estates Winery for a tour and wine tasting.  

Day 2 -- An all-day tour to visit apple orchards in Hamilton-Wentworth and Norfolk counties, the Horticultural Experiment Station/University of Guelph in Simcoe, and the Norfolk Fruit Growers Association's packing plant and cold storage facilities.

International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association