Cherry Tree Fertilization
It is essential to perform a soil analysis before any fertilizer application. Every field has different needs, so you need to study soil and leaf analysis of your orchard before deciding on fertilization methods. However, we will list some fertilization methods commonly used in commercial cherry farming.
Cherry trees are generally “light eaters” (especially sour cherries) and do not require heavy fertilization. Experienced cherry growers claim that cherry trees need one fertilizer application every spring (usually in the first four years of development) until they become resilient enough. Then, we may apply another fertilization after harvesting. In soils with low pH (5 or lower), the farmer may expect to have some calcium (Ca) and magnesium deficiencies or/and reduced availability of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). If the problem is significant, the grower should consider taking actions to neutralize/increase the pH over time by adding lime.
Depending on the soil’s nutrient profile, it may be necessary to add compost to the orchard before establishing the young trees. Under certain circumstances (well-drained, fertile soil), fertilizer application may not be required. As a rule of thumb, if the shoots of a young non-bearing cherry tree grew 15 inches (38 cm) or more within a year, then we do not need to fertilize. Similarly, the shoot elongation should be 8 inches (20 cm) or more for productive-mature trees. However, if we notice that trees are not growing properly and their leaf growth is slowed down (during the first year), we may add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the following year (¼ to ⅓ pound or 0.11-0.15 kg of actual nitrogen per tree). The amount of this application depends on how many years the trees are established in the orchard. Typically, ⅛ lbs (0.055 g) of fertilizers is usually required for each year of the tree age.
Some growers apply a balanced fertilizer consisting of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and phosphorus (P), in the first two years, usually in the form of granules. We can apply these granules to the soil at the rate of 10-10-10, 5-10-10 N-P-K. When growing sweet cherry trees, these rates can be 15-15-15 or 10-15-15 N-P-K. In the third year, growers may spray liquid fertilizers. Finally, growers can apply soluble fertilizers in the fourth year, generally at the rate of 20-20-20 N-P-K. The basic application takes place in early spring, 2-3 weeks before flowering starts. In very poor soils and super-high-density orchids, one or more complementary fertilization may be needed. In cherry orchards with light to medium soils, 300-700 trees per hectare (120-280 per acre), and an expected yield of 20 MT per hectare (8 MT per acre), the base dressing recommendation is around 55 kg of N, 55 kg of P (P2O5), 88 kg of K (K2O), 44 kg of Ca (CaO) and 22 kg of Mg (MgO) (25 lb of N, 25 lb of P, 40 lb of K, 20 lb of Ca and 10 lb of Mg). Some farmers may choose to apply fertilization both from the ground and as fertigation as well and break the K application into up to 5 doses (from flowering to fruit maturation). In some cases, cherry growers may apply/spray with boron at the start of flowering. Moreover, in cases of N and K deficiencies, there is the possibility to apply foliar fertilization (spraying) in early fall while the tree foliage is still green and active. Be careful and use the fertilizers in a circle at least 18 inches away from the tree trunk. After the application, the fertilizers should be incorporated into the ground manually (e.g., with a hoe) or with the help of water flow (irrigation or rainfall).
However, these are just standard practices that should not be followed without doing your own research. Every field is different and has different needs. Checking the soil nutrients and pH is crucial before any fertilizer application. Leaf analysis is very important for identifying and correcting nutrient deficiencies in cherry trees. You can always seek advice from a licensed agronomist.
Cherries: Info, Facts, Nutritional Value & Health Benefits
Plant Information of cherries
10 Interesting Things About Cherries You Probably Didn’t Know
Growing Cherry Trees for Profit
Soil requirements, preparation, and planting of cherry trees
Cherry Tree Water Requirements
Cherry Tree Propagation and Pollination
Cherry Tree Training, Pruning, and Fruit Thinning
Cherry Tree Fertilization
Cherry Tree Pests and Diseases
Cherries Harvesting and Yield per Hectare – Do you pick cherries with the stem on or off?