Monday, October 1, 2007

A few thoughts (too busy for much else)

Harvest has been in full swing, so not much time for extras. But, a few things that have come to mind recently:

1.) Why do we charge more for some apples, i.e. Honeycrisp? Supply and demand? Are they really that much better than say, a good Jonagold, Gala, Empire, and many more 'commodity' apples. Please vote at right.

2.) NPR Saturday (29-Sep) Weekend Edition, an interesting story on how codling moth has become resistant to the granulosis virus in Germany.

3.) 2nd leaf Liberty planted on B.9 rootstock yielding a bit more than 5 lbs. (or more) per tree, if you could get $1 a pound retail that should pretty well pay for the cost of the tree -- well, if you get a good deal on the trees!

4.) September has been significantly warmer (and dryer) than average, yet drop has been minimal and fruit quality seems to be holding very well. Particularly trees treated with ReTain® PGR. You be the judge.

5.) Now finishing Macoun's, last of Honeycrisp (unbelievable), McIntosh (more unbelievable), and Cortland. In the middle of Jonagold. Empire just starting.

6.) Spent last Friday at the Big-E handing out slices of Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Macoun, and Gala in front of the Massachusetts Building. Massachusetts specialty foods on the lawn sponsored by Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources. Honeycrisp clearly a winner. Jonagold almost as good, and I think this apple is every bit as good as Honeycrisp and not promoted as such. "I did not know you could grow Gala here" a common comment. These eastern grown Gala (Buckeye and Brookfield) are again in a class with Honeycrisp I think. Macoun for those who like tart apples -- we in Mass. kind of have a cult following for them. Funny, apple tastes seem to fall in to either liking it sweet or liking it tart and never should the two cross! Although I think Jonagold comes closest, being a nice blend of sweetness and tartness. Sweet-tart? Tart-sweet?


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Early Fuji's, Crimson Crisp, and some yield observations

Harvest is cranking and we are amidst McIntosh and Honeycrisp. Recently, several new 'early' Fuji strains have become available that are in this mid-September harvest window. They include September Wonder (formerly Jubilee), Auvil Early, Daybreak, and Rising Sun. There are probably others. We have September Wonder, Daybreak, and Rising Sun at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard. I favor Daybreak which is available from Adams County Nursery. September Wonder, although good in appearance, lacks flavor IMHO. Rising Sun, an International Plant Management introduction, I don't have much experience yet. My colleague Win Cowgill from Rutgers has done significant testing of these early Fuji cvs. but I am not sure if he has published any of his results yet -- Win?

Mo Tougas (Tougas Family Farm) just told me he thought Crimson Crisp (pictured) was looking nice. Crimson Crisp is a scab-resistant apple recently introduced by PRI and tested in the 1999 NE-183 planting. I looked at it too, and indeed among scab-resistant apples it has merit. See my latest round of apple maturity reports.

Finally, a couple quick yield observations. 6th leaf Lindamac on M.9 planted at 4x12, 675 boxes/acre. 2nd leaf Honeycrisp on B.9 (Stark Bros. trees) planted at 3x12 app. 230 bushels/acre. (See Sep-12 video post.) Both nice, easy to manage trees. The way to grow apples.

Ciao until next time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blushingstar a fine maiden

I think of this very early September period as the 'golden time' for tree fruit. Early fall apples are starting to come along and peaches are still going strong. It is the start of a rapid transition to true fall, but summer is still definitely in the air. Case in point is the fact McIntosh has reached acceptable harvest maturity -- at least for a first pick based on color -- as have also Honeycrisp. And I just picked Blushingstar, pictured at left, another of the Fruit Acres series of Stellar peaches. White flesh, aromatic, somewhat firm, large, and very attractive. This is a premium piece of fruit that we can grow here in southern New England that rivals any piece of tree fruit grown anywhere in the world! Absolutely beautiful. Hence, the 'golden time.' Enjoy it's fleeting days while you can.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

'Early Macs' or the best early McIntosh?

Pre-Labor Day Macs. Yuck. Yet they are always picked and commonly marketed as 'early Macs.' I can't really blame the growers, it is a bit of a herd mentality (sorry) and the customers want them. But no self-respecting Mac should be picked before (an early) Labor Day. Stick with the Paulared, Ginger Gold, Sansa, Zestar! etc. IMHO.

That being said, Marshall McIntosh is commonly one of the earliest McIntosh strains picked, as it does color up a little early, it does mature a little earlier, and it will drop earlier than anything else. All good reasons to pick them IMMEDIATELY AFTER Labor Day! Or before, as you will :-)

But, I have been looking at a new Mac strain which I think represents a superior alternative to Marshall Mac. It is Lindamac, pictured above. Just look at this picture comparing the two side-by-side. (Marshall Mac on the left, Lindamac on the right.) Lindamac has at least 90% red skin, vs. just 65% or so for Marshall. (BTW, both these were treated with ReTain PGR.) Otherwise, flesh firmness and soluble solids were comparable. Interestingly, the starch maturity index was a full point higher (3.5) for the Lindamac vs. the Marshall Mac (2.5). You can bet I will pick these Lindamacs next week, when I expect the starch index to be about 4-5, and they will be very good-to-go, including decent flavor and a nice full red blush over the entire apple.

Lindamac is available almost exclusively through Summit Sales.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Early apple season is here

Early apple season is here. What can I say? Kind of what we have been working towards all season. Picked:

Sansa -- 'an early, fresh-market apple' according to HortResearch NZ. Not to be confused with Sansa® music player, which interestingly enough holds a registered trademark for Sansa®.

Ginger Gold -- discovered as a chance seedling in Virginia. Very good quality and has grabbed a substantial portion of the early market. Available from ACN.

Akane -- a parent of Sansa. Pictured above. Under-appreciated and overlooked.

Paulared -- a McIntosh-type apple with average quality, but large, reliable, and productive. The first apple of the season with true fall-like flavor.

Zestar! -- introduced by the University of Minnesota. Note that Zestar! is a trademark name, the true cultivar name of this apple is 'Minnewashta' (yea, right), the name of a lake close to the U of M arboretum where Zestar! was born. I find the taste of Zestar! to be somewhat lacking, but I probably do not let it get ripe enough. A grower-friendly tree, but fruit readily drops and above average scab susceptibility. Not overly productive, but large fruit. Don't plant too many. More here in this Minnesota Public Radio article.

I collect 10 apples of each when I think they are ready for a first pick and subject them to a number of measurements, including size, skin color, flesh firmness, soluble solids, and starch-index. And taste. All maturity indexes, some better than others. I will be publishing my results here for the rest of the harvest season. Hope it goes well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The king of peaches

Well I think Redhaven is the king of peaches here in Massachusetts. A fairly bud-hardy, reliable and heavy cropper with classic yellow-peach flavor that ripens in mid-August. Size is very good, almost 3 inches. The only real downside I can think of is it does not have as much red color as some of the newer varieties. BTW, Redhaven was introduced in 1940 by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station in East Lansing. If someone thinks something is wrong with Redhaven, I would like to hear about it. It makes a great perpendicular-V tree.

I also picked my first 'donut' peaches ever -- Njf16 in the ACNursery catalog. (Holy cow! $4.50 royalty -- who's getting rich?) These are young trees, so there were only a few of these 'peento' peaches. Kind of attractive, high in sugar. A little russet where fruit was oriented on top/bottom of branches -- my New Jersey source tells me care should be taken when hand-thinning these to leave fruit on their sides, not oriented up or down. They were quite firm to the touch but clearly ripe. I am looking forward to having more of these next year -- I am not sure why they don't give them a name? Joe? Phil? (You know who your are...)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

More 'early' peaches

Well, we are approaching the mid-August heart of (Redhaven) peach season here in Massachusetts. But there are still some earlier peaches being picked. Today, at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard I picked Jade (pictured) and Risingstar. Jade is a white-fleshed nectarine from France. Risingstar is from the Fruit Acres/Stellar breeding program. Jade is very aromatic with a rather exotic white-flesh nectarine flavor. But, it has not been terribly bud hardy, except for this past winter, which was an easy one, and it has some susceptibility to bacterial spot. (It appears to be a bad year for this disease.) Risingstar is a typical yellow flesh clingstone peach with 85-90% red skin. Very attractive. It needs to be thinned good to get size. I like Risingstar for an early peach. No split pits. I also looked at Country Sweet peach and Honey Kist nectarine -- both yellow flesh, low-acid fruit from Zaiger Genetics. Both rather heavily infested with bacterial spot. If you are going to grow these unique varieties -- I, and our customers, particularly like Country Sweet -- you need to maintain an aggressive bacterial spot program beginning in the spring. Both ready or close to harvest right now. Be sure to check my 2007 peach harvest record for details. Note these peach varieties are available from Adams County Nursery.

While listening to WAMC Northeast Public Radio this noon, an excellent story on the 2007 New York apple crop. Very well done, I thought. Even got to hear my old friend Tre Green of Chazy Orchard -- largest McIntosh orchard in the world! (Or so THEY say!)

And, related to above, read the NY Times article 'Food That Travels Well' on 'food miles' vs. 'life cycle measurement.' Very interesting.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Japanese beetle and Honeycrisp

Chalk up another Honeycrisp disorder. At the UMass Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, MA, I planted an orchard in 2006 with Honeycrisp and McIntosh (cvs. Rogers and Snappy Mac) on three different rootstocks (MM.106, M.26, and B.9) and three tree training systems (NZ central leader, vertical axis, and tall spindle). The point is to demonstrate training systems and collect some yield and economic data. But, although there has been lots of anecdotal evidence that Japanese beetles are particularly attracted to Honeycrisp, I am now able to put some numbers on it. This morning I did a quick look at all trees (150 total, 75 of each cultivar divided across the three rootstocks) and determined that 36% of the Honeycrisp had reached a treatment threshold -- which to me was active beetle feeding -- vs. 0% (that's right, zero) on the McIntosh. Now, if McIntosh were the only choice, would they be on those? I don't know. But clearly Honeycrisp are significantly more attractive to Japanese beetles than McIntosh, requiring some kind of treatment for control. And although the beetles are largely foliar feeders, which is bad enough in itself, they can also damage fruit. And Honeycrisp are just too darn valuable to lose any!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Duck weather

Duck weather and brown rot go hand-in-hand. And we have duck weather. I am seeing a little more brown rot than I would like to see already, and as peaches, plums, and nectarines mature, expect more. There are many fungicide options on the fruit rot phase of brown rot, including the SI's -- Indar, Orbit, Elite, etc. -- and Captan, Topsin-M, sulfur, Pristine, etc. Resistance development to SI's is a real concern, so rotate classes of fungicides whenever possible. SI's rotated with Captan and/or Pristine would be a wise idea. If the weather stays like this, brown rot sprays applied to ripening peaches will have to be applied every 3-5 days in the one to two week window preceding harvest. Good luck.

Briefly, I noticed the latest issues -- including Spring 2007 -- of the New York Fruit Quarterly are on-line. A tremendous resource and every article should be of great interest to you.

And, check out this Zestar! tree -- would make a beautiful tall spindle.

And finally, Earliglo and Garnet Beauty peaches are being harvested in Belchertown at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard and in eastern Massachusetts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Report from Geneva

Today I attended the Cornell Fruit Field Day and Equipment Show at the NYSAES at Geneva, NY. 8 AM to 5 PM. Tree fruit, grapes, and berries. Four 2-hour tree fruit sessions with multiple speakers. AM I. Fire blight management with grad students Dewdney and Russo. Managing apple scab using phosphite fungicides with Cox. Koeller on apple scab resistance management including a new generation of SI fungicide(s). Plum varieties for NY -- Freer. AM II. Wild apple tree/germplasm collection with Forsline. Geneva rootstocks with USDA/Fazio. High density cherries and managing canker with Robinson and Carroll. Chemical peach thinning with Osborne. BBQ chicken lunch thanks to industry sponsors and welcome to Geneva -- including 125th Anniversary by Station Director Burr. Hot and sunny. PM III. Landers -- following the money, keeping control of your canopy sprays; apple chemical thinning (timing) by Robinson; Cheng, how much nitrogen needed to grow large Gala; tall spindle apples and return bloom of Honeycrisp by Hoying. PM IV. Promising new apple rootstocks by Robinson (and hi-density pears which I skipped); NEWA weather stations by Carroll; Brown and Maloney on apple and cherry breeding/selections; Agnello on mating disruption with new dispenser technology. Whew, did I miss anyone? Lots of information. I have made this trip to western New York for the past four years now and it has always been very worthwhile -- cutting edge growing technologies transferable to New England tree fruit growers. Video to come soon.

Oh, and previous afternoon tour of Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail. Including discovery of Vergennes White Wine, Arbor Hill. From the City of Vergennes, VT City Council Meeting, March 27, 2007 -- "A bottle of white wine has been presented to the City by Arbor Hill Grapery of Naples, NY, advised Manager Perry. The wine is called Vergennes White Wine. It was named after William E. Green because the grape was discovered in his garden in Vergennes in 1874. The label on the bottle states that in the early 1900’s Vergennes was best known as the table grape that shipped well and had the best keeping capability. Wine master John Brahm has offered to come to Vergennes on Vergennes Day or French Heritage Day to present a case of this wine to the City and the same to any surviving family member of William E. Green." Rumor has it John followed up with his promise on Bastille Day (that is July 14th, otherwise known as French Independence Day, pretty much an [un]official holiday in Vermont north of I-89!) including the planting of a vine on the City green. All new to moi, and quite a little vayniac find! Ciao.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Earlystar and bacterial spot

As promised, I picked Earlystar peach today. It is very good for a very early yellow peach -- I think superior to PF-1. You can see some data here. I also observed a fairly raging case of bacterial spot, which I knew was coming. Bac spot is evident on Shiro plum, Countrysweet peach, and Honeyckist nectarine. The latter two are Zaiger sub-acid peaches. Having been bred in California, they have not been selected for bac spot resistance. But they are real sweet stone fruit, and have done well for us otherwise. Control of bacterial spot needs to begin early -- see the fact sheet from West Virginia University. I can expect considerable early defoliation now, and some fruit defects, although the Countrysweet peaches still look pretty good. I have posted a gallery of pictures I took today from these three stone fruit cultivars. I am not 100% sure all the symptoms are bac spot, but am reasonably sure most are. Sometimes nitrogen deficiency can look like bac spot, but given the cultivars we are dealing with here, it's the latter. Someone PLEASE remind me next year I need to get on a bac spot control program!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Honeycrisp 'yellows'

I still get calls about this 'disorder' if you want to call it that. Honeycrisp foliage has this propensity to turn a mottled yellow by mid-July on some trees, and it is endemic to wherever Honeycrisp is grown. Weak trees with a light crop are most likely to exhibit the symptoms. Annual, moderate bearing -- with good fruit thinning every year -- should minimze it. Keep the nutrient status of the trees up to snuff too. I have written about this before way back in 2000, and here is a good picture of what the Honeycrisp 'yellows' looks like. The disorder should not be confused with potato leafhopper injury, which looks similar. But you'll get the 'yellows' with no PLH in sight. Studies have shown that it is likely caused by an inability of the tree to mobilize starch. So, don't worry about it too much if you have it, but it is a sign that you may want to make sure the trees are in good health. Oh, and check out the video. Ciao.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Peach harvest starts

Well, it has been no more than a week since cherry harvest ended -- with Balaton, Regina, and Sweetheart -- than peach harvest has begun. Today, we picked PF-1, pictured on the left, which is the first ripening peach from Paul Friday's Flamin'Fury peaches. PF-1 looks good for an early peach. There were a few split pits, but color was good and the fruit are attractive if not a bit small. I would say maturity is a little uneven so you have to pick carefully. (You can keep track of my 2007 peach harvest date here.) I want to compare this to Earlystar (formerly FA-101) which I may 1st-pick tomorrow or Monday at the latest. You should remember that as peaches ripen, they become far more susceptible to brown rot, particularly with this warm, humid, rainy weather we are having. At least two or three fungicide sprays need to be applied in the two to three weeks prior to harvest. Brown rot fungicide workhorses include Captan, Indar, Orbit, and Elite. The latter three are all SI fungicides, and it would not hurt to rotate with Captan. Pristine is also a very new option and would be good to rotate with either Captan or the SI's too. All-in-all it looks like an excellent peach harvest coming up in Massachusetts. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Back to work

I have just returned from Cape Cod after a few days of R&R to a little rain and fog. Welcome to my blog, an attempt to keep interested tree fruit growers in Massachusetts up-to-date with what is on my mind as I go about my job and what is currently happening at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard in terms of pest management, horticulture, and marketing the fruit we grow. I hope to update daily, and be sure to leave a comment or contribution as you see fit. Thanks.