However, poor soils will produce poor results and the best crops are found on fertile sandy soils and loams. Soils should be well drained. Wet soils lead to poor aeration and increased incidence of crown rot in apples (Phytophthora cactorum). Pears are generally more tolerant of poor drainage.
Soils with high organic matter contents are normally better structured and allow good rooting. Irrigation is necessary on dry soils, particularly when establishing and growing young orchards. In hot climate, e.g. Spain, as much as 6000mm of irrigation water can be used per year to support growth.
Trickle irrigation and fertigation are increasingly used. In young orchards fertigation helps increase early tree growth and brings trees into bearing earlier. Sprinkler irrigation can be used to protect the tree buds and fruitlets against frost damage. Sowing of a grass mulch between the tree rows is common practice, which together with any clippings, helps to increase water holding capacity, infiltration rate, soil aggregation and recycling of nutrients.
Pome fruit prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH between 5.8 and 7.0). Extreme soil pH values result in nutrient tie-up or toxicity and poor tree and fruit development. It is important to amend the pH in acidic soils by incorporating lime before planting.
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