There are hundreds of orange trees here at ChileFarms. Maintaining them - water, fertilizer, chemicals to thwart insects, is part of the cost of growing them. Pruning the trees during growing season is a never-ending job.
One of the main reasons to prune the trees is to prevent infestations by the dreaded chonchito blancos, the fuzzy white little insects that can ruin the fruit if left to multiply.
The chonchito blancos thrive in the dark center of the orange tree and in places, dark and moist, where leaves touch and moisture collects. The biggest job for several weeks is to find the portal, in which large branches have been pruned away to gain access to the center of the tree close to the trunk, and prune out the ‘suckers,’ new shoots of branches that block sunlight from entering the center area of the tree.
Once cleared of these new shoots, more sunlight pours into the center and less chance for the chonchito blancos to begin feasting. Once the bugs get a head start in the shady center area, they move outward on the tree where most of the oranges fruit, and begin to infest them.
pt at large has spent some nights and days in the orange grove learning what to look for, and how to prune efficiently. Some of the trees have prominent thorns, which an expert like Ricardo Ceriani knows how to avoid. Gringos like pt learn the hard way. This morning, Jose Pablo, one of the managers for the farm, laughed when he saw my arms and asked Ricardo if I’d been in a fight with a big cat.
The best time to prune is between 7 pm when the temperatures lower down from the 80s until 9:15 or so, when dusk settles into night. It’s a good feeling to look back one hundred yards and see the path littered with thousands of green suckers that we’ve pulled from the trees.
Pulling out a handful of new shoots in the middle of the orange tree
Susaan, Ricardo, Paul at 9:15 pm. Ricardo's nephew Cristhaim was on the crew and took this photo.
Cristhian and Ricardo