To Get the High-Hanging Fruit, Grow Shorter Trees

Dr. Gennaro Fazio, a plant breeder and geneticist with the USDA’s Agricultural Resource Service tells us . . . :

“In taller apple trees, the fruit that is high up, exposed to the sun, ripens the fastest. Low-hanging fruit doesn’t get much sun, and it’s not as ripe — not so delectable, you could say — as the higher fruit. You want to pick the low-hanging fruit last, so it has more time to develop.”

But according to Fazio none of this ultimately matters: the idiom “low-hanging fruit” has been rendered totally and utterly irrelevant by the changing nature of apple tree genetics.
When “low-hanging fruit” became a metaphor in the late 1960s, the majority of apple trees in the U.S. were 25- to 30-foot tall goliaths–and the only fruits within reach were those that lingered on lower branches. Today, however, the majority of apple trees are what arborists refer to as “dwarfs.”
. . .
Once hesitant that the smaller trees wouldn’t produce as much fruit, apple growers realized dwarf trees were actually far more profitable. “Farmers get a higher yield per acre,” says Heather Faubert, of the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association. “With the taller trees, you could only plant about 20 trees per acre; now, you can get as many as 2,000 in the same space.”
The result of these smaller trees is that the lowest-hanging fruits are actually no longer the easiest to pick. In fact, picking them requires repeatedly bending over to knee-level, a maneuver that can prove incredibly straining on the lower back.
“The ergonomics of picking apples have completely changed,” says Fazio. “It really no longer makes sense to go for the low-hanging fruit. The phrase is irrelevant.”

For the full story, see:, “Should You Literally Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit?,” Feb. 5, 2016, URL:
(Note: ellipses added.)

The web page was excerpted in:
“Notable & Quotable: ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Feb. 10, 2016): A11.
(Note: the online version of the article has the date Feb. 9, 2016.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *