Lurrarte – fruit producers

by admin on 03/06/2016

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Ignacio Artola Lurrarte and his partner Antton Olaizola are fruit farmers who have called their company «Lurarte», which means «between different lands» in Basque, because they live between the farmhouse and their customers. In addition to producing their own fruit, they also buy fruit for sale from other local producers and, if necessary, they import fruit from Holland. If required, they store fruit in a cold room until they ca sell it.

We visited Ignacio Lurrarte on the outskirts of the town of Azkoitia where he lives next to an orchard covering 18 hectares, where 8 has are set aside for kiwi trees, another 8 has for table apple trees and another 2 has for cider apple trees. Besides, they have a small field of cherries. He and his partner Antton have been cultivating this orchard for more than 25 years and they rent it from a convent next to the orchard. In 1989, they were the first ones that started a plantation of kiwi fruit in the Basque Country.

Kiwifruits were originally called Chinese gooseberries because they originate from China and they tasted like gooseberries, but a woman missionary brought seeds of this plant to New Zealand in 1904. From the 1950s onwards, Chinese gooseberries were being exported to the United States, but since it was during the Cold War, the Americans didn’t want to buy anything related to China. Then, then name kiwifruit, probably inspired by the kiwi bird, was introduced and has since spread worldwide.

Kiwifruits are vine plants and they grow best across vertical structures that provide support and abundant access to light. Having entered the orchard, we could see rows of kiwifruit trees which were supported by trellises with T-bars, but we could also see branches and twigs which had been attached to horizontal steel wires, say, 1.5-1.8m above ground.

Quotation: Kiwi trees are rampant plants and their trunks never become sturdy enough to hold the plants up off the ground of their own accord. Under cultivation plants must be trained to some sort of support that is both sturdy and allows vines adequate room to ramble.

The goals in training and pruning are to make a potentially tangled mass of rampant shoots manageable and easy to harvest, and to keep a vine fruitful by allowing adequate light to fall within the plant canopy. Pruning also stimulates an annual flush of new wood, important because flowers, and, hence, fruits, are borne toward the bases of current seasons’ shoots that grow from canes that grew the previous year only. Source.

The kiwi vines have male and female plants that have corresponding male and female flowers. In order to produce fruits, pollen from male plants must be transferred to the female plants and since there are many beekeepers in this area, the pollination is done by honeybees. For a good yield of fruit, one male vine for every 4.5 female vines is required in this orchard. When the female flowers have been pollinated, they will grow into kiwifruits, while the male ones will wither.

Ignacio picked one of each and showed us how they look like as shown at the top of this article.

The kiwi fruits grow from the same fruit spur and, in order to have one big fruit instead of several small ones, only one in a group of fruits is kept, while the other ones are removed.

During budbreak, frosts are very harmful for the buds. As regards diseases, kiwifruits are susceptible to some fungal diseases of the trunk that they treat by cutting it off just above ground and letting it be replaced by another sprout growing from the same trunk.

There are some problems with Phytophtora fungus, which can cause crown rot, in the soil. Thus, Ignacio and his partner feel they have to use herbicides in order to keep diseases under control. They also use artificial fertlisers, meaning this orchard is not organic, but they follow the requirements set up by the Agricultural Department of the Basque Government and it’s qualified as «integrated production». 

The kiwi fruits are picked by hand in November and sold to the BM supermarket chain in the Basque Country. BM is a local chain that has a section of local products and they treat producers fairly..

Irrigation is done by droplets via hoses, which extend along the length of each row of trees

They sell whole fruits only and they don’t process them in any way.

Having got an introduction to kiwifruits, we went to the apple trees. This site gives some interesting background information:

  • Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since at least 6500 B.C.

  • The apple tree originated in an area between the Caspian and the Black Sea.

  • Apples were the favorite fruit of ancient Greeks and Romans.

Quotation: In winter the apple tree rests. On the branches are buds, some of which contain leaves and others that contain five flowers. With warmer spring weather, the leaf buds unfold and flower buds begin to grow on the ends of the twigs.

Honeybees are attracted to the apple flowers by nectar and the scent of the petals. As the bee collects nectar, it also picks up pollen. When the bee lands on a flower on another tree, it brushes against the pistil of the flower, leaving pollen grains on the sticky stigma. The pollen grains send tubes down through the styles to reach the ovary (pollination). Through the filament the sperm present in pollen can reach the ovules that are in the ovary. The fertilized ovules will become seeds. The outer wall of the ovary develops into the fleshy white part of the apple. The inner wall of the ovary becomes the apple core around the seeds.

In summer, the apples grow bigger and gradually change color, and the tree produces new growth. In fall, the apples ripen. About two weeks before the harvest, the apples’ food supply from the tree is cut off and the apples become sweeter. Most apples are harvested by hand, primarily in September and October. Source.

Ignacio and his partner grow an apple called Elstar, which is profitable, but it is susceptible to diseases Since 2014. they also grow Topaz apples, which are more more resistant to spotted disease. As shown here, apples are subject to a variety of diseases. In addition, they can easily be fed on by aphids  and caterpillars.

They are also trying other varieties, keeping in mind that local people prefer red apples.

The most environmentally friendly way of avoiding diseases is to prune the trees  allowing lots of light to enter to ripen the fruit and air can circulate more freely, reducing the spread of disease.

All pruning should be carried out in the winter months, ie between November and February, when the tree is dormant and it is easier to see the shape of the tree.

When the fertilised flower begins to develop a seed, the stage of fruit set starts. Soon afterwards, the smallest apples and any damaged ones have to be removed.

The apples are harvested in autumn. The cider apples are sold to cider houses and the table apples are sold whole in Basque Country

The last words go to the producers themselves. Our orchards are small compared with those of the multinational companies. This allows us to take great care of each of our individual trees, and collect the fruit one by one at the optimum moment of ripeness, in this way ensuring the quality of the entire harvest in a way that the large producers cannot.

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