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.)

George Washington as Entrepreneur

(p. C7) While Washington was only an adequate battlefield general, Edward G. Lengel, who oversees George Washington’s papers at the University of Virginia, makes a strong case in “First Entrepreneur” that he was a superb military administrator–skills he learned as a young man serving in the French and Indian War as an aide-de-camp for commanding officers. By carefully monitoring all aspects of the complex business of running a military operation, he held his ragtag army together despite a frequent lack of money, clothing, weapons and food. Without Washington’s management, the Continental Army would likely have disintegrated and the Revolution fizzled out. Mr. Lengel brings needed attention to this vital and neglected aspect of Washington’s generalship.
Washington was also a superb administrator of his own assets. Born to modest wealth, he married into much more and worked hard and creatively to maximize his return on investment. By the end of his life he was one of the new country’s richest men.
Tobacco, the cash crop that had brought prosperity to Virginia, was declining in profitability by the mid-18th century. It exhausted the soil, and prices had been falling on the British market. Washington began to rotate and diversify his crops, import better seed, and exploit Mount Vernon’s other assets, such as the springtime fish runs up the Potomac.
By the end of his life, Washington was not only growing new crops but manufacturing as well, turning his wheat production into both whiskey and flour. When the American inventor Oliver Evans developed a new, more productive type of flour mill, Washington quickly installed one. When the king of Spain sent him a donkey, named Royal Gift, Washington put him to work fathering mules, which were more efficient than horses at farm work. As Mr. Lengel makes clear, Washington was always a bottom-line man, a fact that makes this often remote figure more human.

For the full review, see:

JOHN STEELE GORDON. “Washington Discovers America; Washington traveled through all 13 states to promote the newborn federal government.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Feb. 13, 2016): C7.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 12, 2016.)

The book under review, is:
Lengel, Edward G. First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His–and the Nation’s–Prosperity. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2016.

Spread of Dynamic Pricing Increases Economic Surplus

The theory of consumer and producer surplus implies that total economic surplus will be greater when pricing changes as supply and demand shift. Dynamic pricing increases the extent to which that is possible, and so should increase the total economic surplus (which is the sum of consumer surplus and producer surplus.) Dynamic pricing should also reduce the time consumers waste waiting for the product or service, when pricing is below the market clearing level (like when there are more people seeking a taxi, than there are taxis at the location).

(p. B1) Adult passes to the Indianapolis Zoo used to cost $16.95. Now they set customers back $8 or $30–or almost anywhere in between.
The zoo prices tickets like airfares, changing prices daily based on advance sales and expected demand. It discounts cold weekdays in February and boosts prices after school groups book dozens of tickets. Since introducing such dynamic pricing last year, the zoo’s admission revenue has grown 12%.
. . .
Backed by vast amounts of data and powerful software, more businesses are varying prices by the day, the hour, or even the minute. Online sellers have used such tactics for years, but frequent price (p. B4) changes are increasingly common in the physical world, amplifying the effects of supply and demand on everything from parking spots to golf-course greens fees.
. . .
Previously, a taxi at rush hour went to “the person who happened to be on the right street corner,” said Ian McHenry, the president of Beyond Pricing, which helps homeowners price their rented guest rooms like big hotels. Now, rides go to people willing to pay more, and fewer people “hit the jackpot and get that underpriced reservation or baseball ticket or open cab.”
. . .
“This is not a passing fad,” said Peter Fader, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s customer-analytics initiative. Amazon is making dynamic pricing the norm, he said, “and then it’s going to become imperative for the brick-and-mortar players to figure out how to do this.”
The trend is good for business, helping companies charge more for in-demand items and offload surplus goods. Caberfae Peaks ski resort in Cadillac, Mich., said its revenue per customer has surged 17.6% since it began dynamically pricing its advance-sale tickets five years ago.
Variable pricing can also influence behavior. Uber and Lyft raise prices during peak times in part to lure more drivers onto the road.
Highway operators use dynamic pricing to regulate traffic. Over the past two years, Ferrovial SA unit Cintra has opened several toll roads in the Dallas area that can change prices every five minutes to keep speeds above 50 miles an hour. The toll for one 7-mile stretch, for instance, fluctuated between 90 cents and $4.50 in a recent week.
The Indianapolis Zoo said it adopted dynamic pricing in part to limit crowds after opening a new orangutan center last year. The strategy worked: two-thirds of guests visited on weekdays this summer, compared with 57% in 2013.
And Gogo Inc. shifts the price of its in-flight Internet between $8 and $40 based on a flight’s route, day and time to limit the number of users and keep speeds high.
Andrew Sullivan, a products manager at a California manufacturer, recently paid $34 for the Wi-Fi. “It’s a drag as a consumer,” he said. “You’re not getting any additional value when you’re paying twice as much for the same commodity.”
Consumers typically resist dynamic pricing when it is introduced, but then quickly acclimate, Mr. Fader said. Five years ago, Major League Baseball teams caught flak when they began changing ticket prices based on factors such as date, opponent, weather forecasts and seats remaining.
“Now pretty much every one of them is doing it routinely, and doing it with a remarkable lack of backlash,” Mr. Fader said. “The first time, it’s ‘That ain’t right.’ The second time, it’s all right.”

For the full story, see:
JACK NICAS. “The Price You Pay Depends on Time and Day.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Dec. 14, 2015): B1 & B4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the title “Now Prices Can Change From Minute to Minute.” The three contiguous paragraphs quoted near the end above (on the orangutan center, on Gogo, and on Wi-Fi) appeared in the online, but not the print, version of the article.)