When apple flowers bloom... Artificial Pollination

After completing the first step of apple growing - “pruning” in winter - flowers start to bloom as spring comes.  Apples are ready to grow toward harvest time in autumn.
Farmers begin to pollinate flowers, and flower selection will follow. 
This time, I’d like to introduce the process of artificial pollination.



Apples have the characteristic of “cross-pollination” in which they bear fruit only with other kinds of pollen, not by themselves.  So, artificial pollination by humans and bees is necessary. 
On a farm where natural breeding by wind or bees is difficult, it has to be done by hand.





This familiar farmer, who is always kind enough to take us through the farming process, has an orchard of only the “Fuji” apple variety among the several farmlands.  He planted some “May Pole” trees for breeding, and tried to pollinate with bees.  But the natural breeding seemed difficult, and so he started working on artificial pollination.
(The dark pink flowers on the right are “May Pole”.)




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There are a few ways to artificially pollinate.  One is a long stick with a cotton ball on the end, much like a q-tip, and each flower is pollinated by hand.

Others use a big brush to spread over the whole branch.  In that case, all the flowers on the branch would breed and it makes it hard to sort out the fruit later.  So he uses the ancient method.

Recently a method using a pesticide sprayer has been developed. 



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Apple flowers bloom in a group of 5 to 6 radially, and the first flower in the center is called the “central flower” and the late-blooming surrounding flowers are called “side flowers.”  The mixture of pollen and pink-colored filler for pollen is applied in the central flower.  As you put a puff of pollen on each flower, the white flower turns to pink, letting you know that it’s done.


After trying to use bees, this method became more effective.  But apple producing takes time and labor like this.





Apple University is a virtual university where you can learn many things about apples in a fun way. ⇒ Click here to go to the site.