Today I measured the terminal growth on the 183 trees I've been evaluating at the organic demonstration in Alleghany County. Thanks again to Della and all the Deals and Tuckers for all their help with this study.
A big thanks also goes to Bryan Davis who has been keeping the site going. For the 3rd NCTA farm tour on August 14, Bryan dug up three trees from this demonstration so that folks could see how the trees were doing. One was a typical "late organic." Remember that these are the trees that are being grown conventionally until the last 3 years before harvest when they will go totally organic -- that is, they are "going organic" late in the rotation with just enough time to be certified as organic. He also brought 2 trees from the organic portion -- one that was growing poorly and one that was growing well.
Those trees were strikingly different. The poor organic tree was just barely alive. The good growing organic tree was growing well, until you compared it to the typical "late organic" tree which was taller and fuller.
The numbers I collected today with the help of my daughter (in the rain no less) bare this out. I measured the terminal of the trees and also gave the trees a rating based on how well they were growing. Trees were given a rating of "1" if they were barely growing at all. A "2" rating was given to a tree that was growing better, but still had poor color and bud set. A "3" rating was given to a tree that was growing acceptably. A "4" rating was given to an exception tree both in color, bud set, needle length and fullness. Of course these ratings were completely subjective and sometimes I had trouble deciding between a "2" and a "3" or a "3" and a "4."
There are some very nice looking organic trees. There just aren't as many as in the other section. Still, all the trees are growing better than they did last year. Last year the average terminal growth for the entire study was 6.1 inches. This year it was 14.0 inches -- more than twice as much. The trees that suffered severe drought when they were planted in 2008 with a southern exposure are finally growing strong.