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1 acre, 2,000 trees, 0 losses


Intensive orchard production comes with its overheads, the biggest and most predictable of these is loss. At Priors Grove, in fields where orchards have been planted consistently since WWII, up to 20 per cent of newly planted trees die each season.  But when the grower used enriched biochar as a planting aid with their new trees in January 2018, something decidedly unpredictable happened…

Priors Grove in Hereford is an organic top fruit grower where new bare-root pear, apple, cherry and plum trees have been planted in tightly packed rows season after season.  With a site in constant use for over 70 years, Phytophthora and Pythium inevitably cause some of those trees to die and, each season, the grower experiences losses of 7 – 20 per cent.

In 2018, with the extreme UK weather conditions of the ‘Beast from the East’ in Spring, followed up with the hottest summer on record, by all rights they should have seen even more losses.  But in one of their fields, a plot of land of around 1 acre, where 1,820 pear trees and 620 apple trees were planted every 60cms in heavy clay soil and without irrigation, that was not the case.  In fact, they had no losses at all.

The reason?  They incorporated 1kg of Carbon Gold’s enriched biochar around the bare roots of each grafted standard as it was planted, along with 300g of Carbon Gold’s enriched biochar Fertiliser.

Biochar is a high-carbon form of charcoal that improves the water-holding capacity, nutrient retention, aeration and structure of soils and substrates.  It also provides a permanent protective refuge for beneficial microbiology.

Carbon Gold’s biochar is enriched with mycorrhizal fungi, Trichoderma, seaweed and wormcasts and has been shown to reduce the impact of transplant shock and drought, and trees treated with it have been shown to be resistant to pests and diseases including ash dieback, honey fungus, horse chestnut leaf miner and acute oak decline in third-party controlled trials.

“The general principle of biochar is that it improves plant health, so we thought it worth trialling. And the fact that its organic but still used by the conventional growers, that was really intriguing.”

“We used it to plant our trees at the beginning of the 2018 season and the results were stunning, there’s no other way to put it.”

Joe Pardoe, Priors Grove

This year Priors Grove has upped the investment, incorporating enriched biochar and Fertiliser around the roots of every tree they plant on site which are already fruiting heavily.

“People will think we’re mad because of the upfront investment but it pays for itself a thousand times over.  We’ve never experienced 0% losses before, it’s a huge result.  

“In this game people don’t like to change, so it’s easy to get an edge by innovating and enriched biochar is a no-brainer in terms of innovation.  It’s ridiculous how well it works!

Joe Pardoe, Priors Grove

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