Every orchard is different
Constant quality despite different soil conditions
Felix Telser and this father Reinhard
When Felix Telser visits the family-owned apple orchards belonging to the „Hof am Ort“ farm in Corces with his father Reinhard, he intuitively and unconsciously starts to draw comparisons. The apple producer has three orchards that are all situated within a radius of 10 km between Corces and Prato, but are very different from each other. “The only thing that these three orchards have in common, is the planting of the apple tree rows in the north-south direction and thus against Val Venosta’s east-west orientation.“ The young apple producer only needs a few simple words to explain why: In the morning hours, the warm sun shines from the east and thus on the right side of the apple tree rows. In the afternoon, however, the left side gets out of the shadow and is kissed by Val Venosta’s sun now shining from the west. It’s some kind of beneficial equality enabled by Val Venosta’s geography that the competent apple producer avails himself of for his apples. On more than 300 sunny days per year.
“But apart from that there are considerable differences between our orchards. This is why we have chosen different apple varieties to guarantee each variety the best possible habitat.“ Reading nature and drawing conclusions – this is what Felix does nearly every day. While all three orchards can enjoy Val Venosta’s intense sun and fresh wind, the difference in altitude of a mere 100 meters results in distinct differences regarding temperature and vegetation. “The lower orchard is in full bloom at least one week before the higher orchard where the first flowers only start to open at the same time,“ explains Felix.
The water for irrigating the orchards is different, too. While the two higher orchards mainly “drink” glacier water from the Stelvio massif that is intensely enriched with natural minerals due to its long way across streams and rocks, the irrigation water of the lower orchard is less calcareous as its way is shorter across other mountains. Different origin of the water, different percentage of carbonate, different approach to the fertilization of the soil. Felix sees the biggest difference between the orchards in the soil. While two orchards have sandy soils with lower capacity to hold water, the soil of the other orchard is rather clayey. “If I didn't irrigate my orchards with sandy soils for two weeks, the trees could die, whereas I wouldn’t even notice an anomaly at the trees growing on clay soil.“
Undesired fungi that can cause major damage also seem to know the difference between the orchards. Felix clearly observes that he has less problems with apple scab in the hillside orchard where, however, he sometimes sees mildew. The exact opposite is the case for the two orchards in the valley floor. The expert apple producer consequently cultivates Pinova and Bonita, two rather scab-resistant varieties, in the orchards where scab may appear, whereas his Golden, Kanzi, Ambrosia und Gala apples only grow in the hillside orchard that is less susceptible to apple scab. Especially Golden Delicious has produced good results there for generations. Golden Delicious apples with their typical red cheeks love hillside locations because they are real mountain apples that Val Venosta is famous for.
There is another reason why Felix cultivates bi-colored Pinova apples in the orchard at the highest altitude: “Trees grow more slowly on sandy, rather gravelly soils. These soils are not so deep, not so rich in humus and thus the roots feel less at ease there. But such soils are nevertheless ideal for bi-colored varieties such as Pinova. If the tree grows more slowly, the second color develops more intensely.“ Pinova apples are, in fact, greenish-yellow until a few weeks before the harvest. They only get their typical bright red color a few days before being harvested. The great range of temperature between day and night does the rest. So Pinova apples of this orchard only get their typical coloring „at the last minute“ due to the characteristics of the soil in this location. Felix and his father Reinhard know that well.
For Felix, knowing the soil of every single orchard mainly means understanding its soil life. The more animals live there, the more fertile the soil is. Earthworms, beetles, fungi, bacteria and algae play a fundamental and, above all, measurable role in this context: There are about 0.5 kg of living organisms per square meter of fertile soil, which means up to 5 tons per hectare. For generations.
“You are never alone in the orchard because there are millions of small animals and microorganisms with earthworms being the number 1. Earthworms dig tunnels in the soil and break up the soil by eating dead organic matter excreted together with mineral elements. That’s the basis for best humus.“ A fertile mix of organic and mineral soil particles that varies depending on the orchard is of vital importance for apple producer Felix’s fruits. “The orchard on the hillside, for example, features many more holes of earthworms after rainfall than the two orchards in the valley floor. When it rains, the earthworms’ tunnels fill with water and they come to the surface to breathe. The orchard with clay soil on the hillside fills with water more quickly and the earthworms have to come to the surface. In this way, you finally see these useful insects,“ laughs Felix.
All varieties cultivated by Felix and his father are on different precious soil types consisting of mineral particles, water, air and many living or already dead plants, animals and microorganisms. External soil analyses on a regular basis let Felix know about the balance in his three orchards. Felix keeps himself informed because every orchard is different and every apple variety needs an ideal soil habitat guaranteed by Felix, his father Reinhard and 1,700 other farmer families in Val Venosta. And the Val Venosta Apple Paradise ensures ideal conditions with a lot of sunshine, fresh wind and a great range of temperature between day and night. For generations. This is why apples from Val Venosta are not only beautiful but also distinguish themselves by their typical unique taste.