It’s Pruning Time

Just under two weeks ago, now that the days are getting longer and the rains should be starting, our crew stumped the blocks of trees for 2019. The coffee land looks so much neater with 2/3 cleaned up. One third is still tall and a bit crammed, but those trees will be the big producers for 2019. They get to meet the pruning saw next year.

We use block stumping because of our terrain and other considerations. This photo taken at another farm shows stumping in rows. The trees on the left were stumped last year and will produce fruit this year. The ones on the right are in their second year of production. You can imagine the differences in airflow, sunlight, and tree crowding when picking coffee, when using blocks vs. rows.

The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) of the University of Hawaii has an extension office just about a mile away. This is an amazing resource for farmers. They have even created a website dedicated to education for coffee growers. Last year my mom and I took the pruning and the coffee borer beetle workshops they offered. This was special mother-daughter bonding time for me, (a) since my mom loves learning things like this, and (b) she could learn first-hand why we’re taking care of the land the way we are. There are different challenges than in her time, like beetle, nematode, and a desirable environment for pickers (who want access & won’t use tall ladders). In her time, they’d often get 20,000 pounds of fruit/acre. Now, it’s often 3000-5000/acre.

These workshops are great because the facilitators are very knowledgeable, helpful, and personable, and it brings farmers together to learn from each others’ experiences. And the old-timers sometimes come by, I assume to both learn and impart knowledge. Last year Mel Kunitake, a friend/peer of my mom’s, chimed in a few times. He’s featured about midway in this article in Hawai’i Magazine.

I decided to take the workshops again this year to see if I could absorb or learn more, and to learn from others. CTAHR has 18 acres for demonstrations and research. I really like how they do the field demonstrations. They give you a situation, and then they do “fish bowl” pruning. (I named it that way based on corporate training events I’ve attended). They ask the attendees for what they’d prune and why, then they explain what they’d do and why. It’s a great learning model.

Stumping is pretty stressful for the life of the tree. You might lose 10% of your trees.

Here’s an example of one of our 2018-stumped casualties. The ever-present autograph tree is there, but it wasn’t the reason the coffee died. But if you don’t control the autograph tree, and it’s a never-ending job, they can grow to be trees as tall as 35 feet! This stump & invader will be removed, and a new (nematode-resistant) grafted tree will be planted in a few months.

Stumping with a nurse vertical helps reduce tree shock and tree loss. You might lose 0-2% of your trees vs. 10% without a nurse. It’s recommended in dry conditions and at higher elevations. One vertical is left on the stump until new growth on the tree reaches 6-10 inches, at which point the nurse is removed. We don’t use this technique because it’s more work.


In case any of you are fascinated, here’s a poster from CTAHR about pruning.

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