Apple research leads to work in field

Heidi Reitmeier next to an apple tree

While researching ways to grow better vegetables, recent University of Minnesota Crookston graduate Heidi Reitmeier bit on another idea: producing high-quality apples. 

The horticulture major studied whether growing apple trees in a high tunnel (similar to a greenhouse) and using a spindle-pruning technique can improve yields. 

Spindle pruning involves removing thicker branches in favor of thinner ones that attach to a trellis. It allows for high-density plantings that produce more apples in a smaller space. Growing apples this way extends the growing season by four weeks.

In addition, Reitmeier found that spindle-pruned trees grown in high tunnels escaped weather damage and bore fruit that earned better taste-test scores than traditionally grown apples. “I really feel like it was a breakthrough,” she says. Reitmeier presented her findings at a Crookston campus forum. 

“It was right up my alley—it made for a great research opportunity,” she says. “I was already in agriculture, and then having that research experience on the side, it sparked an interest in me and inspired me to put the two together (agriculture and research).”

It also led to a position for Reitmeier as a soils science researcher at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center on the Crookston campus, where she’ll be collecting soil samples and water flow data and doing nutrient analysis on the fields there.

She says she really enjoys her work, and hopes to obtain a graduate degree down the road. Adds Reitmeier: “Having that research experience on the side opened more career doors for me.”
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities