Van der Merwe, Johannes Dawid Prins 
Thesis (MScAgric)–Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Limited research is available on the effect of mulches on established orchards. Most of the information available stems from research conducted in newly planted orchards or on annual crops such as green peppers and strawberries under greenhouse conditions. To increase the current knowledge on the effect of mulches in established orchards, two field trials were conducted on 14 year old „Cripps‟ Pink‟ orchards. The one trial concentrated on the influence of mulches on the root environment and the other trial on the effect of mulches on growth, yield and fruit quality.

Both trials were conducted at Lourensford Estate near Somerset West, but the sites differed in soil texture between lighter soil (Tukulu) and heavier soil (Clovelly). Four different mulches were used viz. compost, wood chips, vermi-castings (topped with thin layer of woodchips) and a woven geotextile fabric. These four treatments were compared to an un-mulched control, managed according to industry norms. After reducing irrigation volume in the 2010/2011 season, with a further reduction in the 2011/2012 season, more significant differences were obtained in nutrient levels of fruit and leaves compared to the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 seasons of the trial. Leaf and fruit nutrients showed significant differences in both sites, but the differences were more pronounced on the lighter soil.

Click here to read the full article.