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Biostimulant promotes plant health, leaf growth and fruit colour - Nigel Kitney - The Fruit Grower

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Renowned Dorset Cider fruit grower Rupert Best says that, to be successful, a new product needs to produce positive value-for-money, then it can be incorporated into programmes. Rupert regards the biostimulant Cultigrow CBL to be such a product. When he compared treated and untreated areas of his orchard, Rupert concluded, "The beneficial effects of Cultigrow CBL were obvious. The treated trees produced a markedly higher yield than the untreated ones. I am now firmly committed to CBL and I am intending to use it throughout our orchards"

Hutchinsons' specialist fruit agronomists have run farm trials since 2016 and are achieving equally good results. Nigel Kitney, a specialist agronomist from Hutchinsons, has observed the product improving red colouration in apples, as well as improving yields. "On average, I would say the yield increase is about 10%. In one orchard of cider apples, the grower said that he had achieved the best yield ever. One explanation for this could be the improvement of rooting systems. We had a drought last summer and anything that improved water uptake would have had a profound effect on yield. I see Cultigrow as a worthwhile insurance, enabling trees to carry through a period of drought or other stresses. It improves leaf growth and fruit colour. In bicoloured dessert apples, where colour is vital for retailing, the ability to enhance the red is essential."

Colleague Bob Little agrees: "Late varieties such as Jazz, Gala and Braeburn in the UK don't colour as well, but I have seen this improved with a programme of Cultigrow. I also used it for three years on apricots and cherries where, without doubt, it helps to achieve better bud consistency, Where trees are under stress or underperforming, Cultigrow certainly helps". Previously a manager of a fruit growing business and now one of Hutchinsons' Fruit Agronomy Team in Kent, Bob says, "I'm happy to recommend Cultigrow CBL, and I would have used it myself if I was still a manager". He says that in a perfect year there may not be such an obvious benefit: "Last year was an excellent year for cherries, but often it is cold during flowering, Cultigrow helps to make flowers more resilient."

Chris Lillywhite has seen this effect too. "Last year it was difficult to see much benefit as it was such a fantastic year for cherries. On top-fruit I have seen many instances of positive effects on fruit colour in apples. The newer Gala orchards have high colouration as part of their breeding, but older Gala orchards do not. I have seen staggering improvements in colour," says Chris.

In 2016, Chris Cooper, another Hutchinsons specialist fruit agronomist, and retained by GB Wines Ltd to give technical support to grape growers, set up a trial in an old established vineyard. The results showed that the CBL treated area had better fruit finish, higher yields and increased Brix levels, compared to the untreated plots. Chris says, "In vineyards under physiological stress you would expect to see a noticeable result that season; in newer vineyards, or where stress isn't so apparent, I would expect to see a lift in cane quality the following year.

Last year, in vines the primary flower buds were killed and/or damaged in many areas by late spring frosts. Where Cultigrow CBL was applied, there was enhanced recovery of damaged buds plus robust growth from secondary and tertiary buds, resulting in good grape quality and greater than anticipated quantity." Chris also uses a programme of Cultigrow CBL in blackcurrants around flowering, when bushes are under stress due to trying to set fruit in challenging weather conditions. In 2017 in Somerset, a programme of Cultigrow improved yield from 16 bins/ha to 18 bins/ha in the treated area, this was a 12.5% increase with no tank-mixing problems."

Cultigrow is 100% natural; its function is to stimulate natural processes, to enhance nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to environmental stress, and crop quality. It is formulated as a liquid and applied to crops using conventional applicators, Its active ingredients are bioflavonoids, derived from bitter orange extract (Citrus aurantheum). In plants, flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients responsible for plant health and strength. They are also responsible for the vivid colour in fruit and vegetables.

Badir Hadj-Aissa has been the driving force behind Cultigrow CBL in the UK. "l am the operation/marketing director in UK and North Africa. Following successful trials in North and South Africa, I was set the challenge to prove that it would have as much success under UK conditions. I am pleased to say that trials done in the last few years in the UK have been as positive and successful as others in different climates and soil conditions. The product is used in South Africa, North Africa and Australia," he says.

Badir explains that Cultigrow CBL stimulates and promotes plant health, aids the plant in the uptake of micronutrients, enhances root/microbe symbiotic relationships, so influencing the rate of growth of the root system, and increases natural defence mechanisms; this improves leaf and fruit colour, yield, fruit size and general plant health. Bioflavonoids improve health, pollen viability and germination.

He reports that, in a blackcurrant trial in Somerset, "Cultigrow CBL improved Brix from 17.5 in the untreated area to 19 in the treated. Considering that this is only the first year of use, and Cultigrow CBL has been shown to have a cumulative effect, we should see better results next season on yield and plant health."

Dr Angela Berrie, Research Leader at NIAB EMR says, "l am impressed with Cultigrow. We have used it in trials on blackcurrants, strawberries and apples. On all these crops we have recorded improvements in plant health. On apple, where we used it for a second year on the same trees, improvements in plant health were better than single-year use, suggesting a cumulative effect.”