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Akinori Kimura and his miracle apples

 
Andrew Fuller
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A Japanese farmer by the name of Akinori Kimura grows apple trees.  Years ago he came across Masanobu Fukuoka's book One Straw Revolution which inspired him to grow his apple trees without pesticides.  He had a very difficult time converting his orchards to successfully grow apples without pesticides but after years of effort did succeed.

The book Miracle Apples is not written by Mr. Kimura himself, but rather the Japanese broadcasting corporation NHK who first featured Akinori Kimura on a television episode and later followed up with this book.  Yoko Ono has made available an English translation of this book that can be read online here: http://imaginepeace.com/archives/11738

I have not finished reading the book, so I don't know all the details and it is my understanding that Akinori Kimura has written one or two books himself that may provide more information on his practices.  However neither of these books have English translations.  If anyone here reads Japanese, it would be nice to compare his methods with our other Permie Idols.

I suspect one of the key difficulties faced is that an orchard setting is really a monoculture that we know to be a disaster waiting to happen w.r.t. pests and diseases.  But I haven't gotten that far in the book myself to confirm that.

I would like to know from those of you here who grow apple trees what have been your experiences?  Are apple trees that grow in a permaculture environment just as susceptible to pests and diseases as those that relied on pesticides for a good part of their life?  Do the apples preserve the same as Kimura's?  (ie: a cut apple left to its own devices will turn brown and rot, but Kimura's just shrivel and dry)
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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The shrivel and dry thing means they are special variety well-suited to storage. My apple tree (never had pesticides/herbicides/fungicides) never have any disease problems, but I live in CA where such things are uncommon anyway.
 
                            
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I've only just started my orchard, but around here there are lots of old apple trees from old homesteads started at different times in the past 100 years. Many of them fruit untended. Fruits sometime have holes, some of them all rot, but I suspect this is from poor microclimate and competing vegetation not allowing air flow. But they manage without issue. I've eaten hundreds of these apples and never once bitten into a worm. I suspect that most of the problems with orchards is that you have a monoculture and then low-cut grass around the trees. This does not provide enough diverse habitat for many bugs and birds which will keep things balanced, and does not promote healthy soil.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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we have "wild" apples around here from the days when the miners were looking for gold. they brought all kinds of fruit and nut trees with them. well now days there are just very very old trees scattered all over the place. what i find amazing is none of them need ANY pruning, ANY summer irrigation, ANY pest control and they produce so much fruit in the fall if no one picks them the ground is solid covered with apples and they keep falling all winter. until the deer herds roll through that is.
 
Amedean Messan
pollinator
Posts: 928
Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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Thanks for the link.
 
Andrew Fuller
Posts: 24
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Kirk Hutchison wrote:
The shrivel and dry thing means they are special variety well-suited to storage.


My understanding while reading it was that during the time that he cultivated the apples using pesticides, the shrivel and dry thing was unheard of.  But after converting to more natural methods he got the shrivel and dry thing.  Which would indicate that the same trees with the same variety of apples went from brown and rot to shrivel and dry.  I haven't come across a specific name for the apples he has, and likely he doesn't even know as the orchard was established before his time.  Are you aware of any other factors that might play a role in it?
 
Andrew Fuller
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Thanks for the comments everyone.  Sounds like in a non-monoculture apple trees aren't nearly as problem-prone as some sources indicate.  That's good to know.  I like apples but don't have a tree yet.
 
Cal Edon
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If you coat slices of apple with an antioxidant (even something as simple as vitamin C) they won't turn brown, because the browning is the result of oxidation of iron compounds in the fruit. If these 'miracle apples' don't brown when they're cut, and dry instead of rotting, my very first thought is that they're full of antioxidant compounds. Perhaps, just as his trees acted to eliminate leaves infected by fungus instead of simply continuing to grow because their nutrients were limited (as mentioned in the epilogue), the apple trees begin producing defensive compounds when their nutrients started running low.

I know various herbs produce the highest concentrations of essential oils when they're slightly nutrient-stressed. If they have more than they can use, they don't bother defending what they have as much. Maybe - just maybe - the apple trees act similarly?
 
Victor Johanson
Posts: 365
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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When we lived in Washington state, we did a lot of fruit scavenging; there are lots of feral trees there. Once I found what appeared to be an abandoned and overgrown orchard, situated in the midst of a fairly urbanized suburb of Tacoma. It was only a few acres, but there were plums, pears, and apples. It intrigued me that, despite the fact these trees received no human care, they thrived and produced fruit that was not only palatable, but almost cosmetically perfect, something growers there have a hard time duplicating intentionally. It appeared that this little ecosystem had achieved a harmonious balance which obviated artificial intervention. That was one of the observations which inclined me to the permaculture approach, and it demonstrated that certain problems might be avoided by eschewing monoculture.
 
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