Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wow, I am getting better on the posts. A few observations from my quick look-around:

Sunburn on apples is the worse I ever seen it. Undoubtedly from 2 weeks ago when several days approached 100 F. with full sun. (Is that like Washington weather?) I don't think this is going to go away by harvest. What to do? Well, if it is going to get hot and sunny again the only solution I know of is to apply Surround. I would do it only on my high-value apples like Honeycrisp and yellow varieties (maybe Gala?). Surround will also keep Japanese Beetles at bay. I am not sure if apples get more prone to sunburn as they ripen or not?

Dogwood borers in pheromone trap -- 19 in less than a week. Borers are mating and laying eggs on tree trunk/rootstocks with burr knots. Perpetual infestation by the borer larvae can eventually girdle and weaken or kill the tree. A trunk coarse spray of Lorsban targeting the above ground portion of the rootstock and lower trunk is indicated, particularly on rootstocks that have a tendency to form burr-knots (M.106, M.26, M.9).

Codling moth (CM) in dogwood borer pheromone trap. Hmm, what to think? I am concerned, although apple maggot sprays with an OP insecticide like Imidan should do the job in killing hatching eggs. I think, however, it is a matter of time before CM becomes more of a problem here in Massachusetts -- could this be the year? We may have to think about using newer chemistries such as Altacor, Delegate, and Turismo (among others) to control internal leps. I am confused -- are you? I would say there are no less than 15-20 chemical options, plus you could do mating disruption. (Too late for that this year.) Be sure to visit the NEWA website for real-time predictions on CM and other insect pests and diseases of apples.

Good luck. JC

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A week? LOL! More like months, let's see April 30, now July 18. Cherries have all been picked. See here for my harvest results. Now we are picking early peaches, and likewise, see here for harvest results. All I can say is daily temperatures are averaging 5-10 degrees above normal, so I would think that, combined with the early bloom, are adding up to a very early peach season. Right now, easily 10-14 days ahead of 'average.' Based on the forecast, I think this is going to keep up -- I foresee Redhaven harvest commencing about July 31, which is a good 10-14 days ahead. We'll see.

Also of note, good attendance, 75+ at the Annual Summer Meeting of the Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Association, last Thursday, July, 15. Orchard tour of the UMass Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, followed by BBQ lunch catered by Outlook Farm, and then presentations by Peter Jentsch (Cornell's Hudson Valley Lab), Dan Cooley, and Duane Greene.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Uni-baum cherries

I seem to be about a week behind on these posts, but on Friday, April 30 I planted 75 sweet cherries at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard 2 ft. apart. These cherries -- 25 each of Rainier, Skeena, and Benton, on either Gisela 3 or 5 dwarfing rootstocks -- were excess trees grown by Willow Drive Nursery for a 2010 NC-140 cherry planting. After going to IFTA in Michigan in March, and specifically after visiting SWMREC during a pre-conference tour to see MSU Greg-Lang's sweet cherry planting there, including trees planted 2 ft. apart, I decided to give it a try. According to Italy's Stefano Musacchi, who demonstrated pruning these 'uni-baum' cherries, they can grow large cherries on relatively short (3 m. high) trees. I thought they would be easy to cover to prevent loss from birds and rain cracking, and thus such a system might be suitable for small-scale plantings in Massachusetts for retail or U-pick plantings of sweet cherries. I have 25 Regina trees coming next year to complete the planting. We'll see how it goes. JC

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Last Saturday (4/10/2010) me and 38 or so MassAggie attendees planted an apple 'fruiting wall' at Brooksby Farm in Peabody. After a morning indoor primer, and when the sky was just clearing we went out and dug a trench, planted 25 apple trees -- 5 Novaspy, 5 Novamac, 5 Liberty, 5 Topaz, and 5 Autumn Rose Fuji at between-tree spacings that ranged from 2 to 4 feet. All the trees were on the dwarf apple rootstock Budagovsky 9 (B.9. ) and were supplied by Adams County Nursery. Just before lunch we limed and fertilized the trees, and just after lunch built a support system consisting of end- and line-posts, and conduit. I should say here that trees planted 2-ft. apart are going to be trained to the super-spindle, 3-ft. apart tall spindle, and 4-ft. apart to a hybrid tall-spindle/vertical axis. So much was all explained to the MassAggie attendees with the hope that they would plant their own 'fruiting wall' and benefit from home-grown apples. Indeed, I had some extra trees available and they were all asked for by the end of the session! And thanks to the Brooksby Farm staff -- Pat, Joann, and Brian(?) -- for their help during the planting. I hope to repeat this successful MassAggie Seminar next spring in western Massachusetts. For more information on this kind of hi-density home orchard planting, see this publication by Duane Greene of UMass. JC

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why I don't like 'mouse' guards

'Mouse' guards may be a good old-school Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practice, but increasingly I find them to be a BAD horticultural practice. Reasons?

  • impractical, labor-intensive, and expensive when planting modern, hi-density orchards of 1,000 or more trees per acre
  • provide refuge for dogwood borers
  • accumulate debris and promote burr-knots and/or scion rooting
  • don't allow for easy maintenance/removal of root suckers
  • give a false sense of security against mouse or rabbit damage in some cases
  • are not maintained over the long run and make monitoring the health of the graft-union area over time problematic

My recommendation NO MORE MOUSE GUARDS in new, hi-density plantings. (In reality they should be called 'vole' guards because the meadow vole is the primary rodent that chews apple bark in the winter.) Focus on "good ground cover management = effective vole management." And good ground cover management means: establishment of low-growing fescues or other turf-type grasses in the row middles at new orchard planting; frequent mowing; effective herbicide use that maintains clean strips of soil down the tree row; and if necessary, application of rodenticides in the fall before the snow falls when vole populations are too high for you to sleep good all winter. JC

Thursday, March 25, 2010

NRCS programs for fruit growers

Abbreviated from presentation at NH Fruit Growers Annual Meeting, March 25, 2010.

NRCS Programs for Fruit Growers (abbreviated from presentation by NRCS representative)


Environmental Quality Incentives Program


Agriculture Management Assistance

deer fencing (EQUIP)

  • existing orchard
  • documentation of deer browsing
  • photo of deer in orchard
  • photo of damage and tracks
  • 8 ft. high, 12.5 ga hi-tensile woven wire
  • must meet standards
  • full payment rate is $11 per foot
  • consider using a professional installer

bird netting (AMA)

  • highbush blueberry, grape, cherry?
  • documentation required
  • $3534 per acre
  • plastic netting

high tunnels

  • financial assistance for 2,178 sq. ft
  • seasonal polyethylene covered structure (no electric, ventilation, heat)
  • 4-year lifespan (then you can do what you want)
  • has to meet criteria
  • $5.52 per sq ft payment


  • IPM activity plans ($2,900 per plan)
  • certified provider
  • payment made to implement plan
  • scouting, monitoring equipment

May 14, 2010 funding cut-off cycle

paperwork needs to be completed by completed mid-April

Monday, March 1, 2010


The International Fruit Tree Association (#iFruittree) is meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, February 27-March 3 for it's Annual Conference. The Conference includes 2 days of speakers and 1 day of orchard tours in the apple production region near Grand Rapids. Here are some take-home messages from selected speakers, and hopefully at least

John Palmer "Apple and Pear Tree Physiology, What Have We Come Up With?"
Key concepts to understand:
Carbon acquisition -- light into total dry matter = linear relationship
• site factors; latitude; cloudiness; frost-free period
• tree factors -- leaf area index; tree height; row orientation; tree width; cultivar
• light interception sets the upper limit for production

Harvest index: total dry matter harvested in fruit (up to 70% possible)
• commercially actually less: why? young trees; biennial; size profile
• management changes have increased harvest index: dwarfing rootstock, minimal pruning, branch manipulation; PGR's
• "We can achieve up to 70% harvest index at maturity"

Fruit quality - think of as "hydrated dry matter ready to eat, attractive, good flavor, saleable, etc."
• shade decreases: fruit weight, red color, SSC, flower bud number, fruit set
• "shady business is to be discouraged in the orchard for more reasons than one"
• never forget link between light and fruit quality

Light interception and distribution; maximize use with minimum misuse: "every bud counts"

Future challenges of "precision horticulture"
• every bud counts
• improved rootstocks
• increased automation
• consistent high fruit quality at POS
• increased development of multidisciplinary teams including molecular biologists
• orchard systems in a wider context -- sustainability and carbon footprint

Steve McCartney "Flower Bud Formation in Apples and Strategies to Help Break Biennial Bearing Habit"
A successful post bloom thinning program in itself not enough to increase return bloom in some varieties
Flower bud initiation: 60-120 DAFB depending on variety (later than I though?)
Use of bio-regulators NAA and ethrel can increase return bloom
Summer NAA: four bi-weekly at 5ppm beginning 8 weeks after bloom
Pre-load (for stop-drop): 5 ppm NAA weekly preceding harvest
Ethrel; single app six weeks after bloom (rate is variety dependent)
What about 5ppm NAA with cover spray every 2 weeks? (Question: simple, but effective?)
More research needed!

Duane Greene "Predicting Thinning, Fruitlet Model"
Greene received the iFruittree 'Researcher of the Year' Award (bio and pict)
Has developed predicting thinning procedure (with colleagues) based on assessing fruit growth rate after chemical thinner application to determine the need for more thinning. Directions available on-line and Excel spreadsheet-based form to run the model.

Terence Robinson "Predicting Fruit Set, Carbohydrate Model"
Basic question: can we predict chemical thinning response using environmental variables?

Factors that affect thinning/final fruit set
• chemical thinner concentration
• application process: uptake, leaf environment, cuticle thickness
• sensitivity of the tree: bloom density, initial set, leaf quality, previous yield history
• temperature, sunlight, tree vigor

Carbon-based hypothesis: fruit sensitivity to chemical thinners primarily a function of carbon supply available for fruit growth from both current production and reserves: temp and sunlight influence trees carbon production; trees more susceptible to chemical thinners when carbon supply is limited and vice-versa

Carbohydrate model
• sunlight + temperature used to calculate photosynthesis = carbohydrate available
• temperature affects carbohydrate demand (higher temperatures more demand via respiration and growth)
• supply vs. demand determines balance (thus, surplus or deficit)

2009 experience:
• Western NY (Lake Ontario): no carbohydrate deficit during thinning window; growers had huge hand-thinning bill; multiple applications necessary to thin Gala
• Eastern NY (Hudson Valley); had some deficit and surplus during thinning window; thinning during deficit worked well

"Optimum thinning level" needs to be developed and visualized as target

Future work needed; test models (relies on good weather forecasts); develop a thinning prediction table; simplify carbohydrate model

Stefano Musacchi "High Density Planting Systems for Apple and Pear"

HDP High Density Planting (HDP, VeryHDP, UltraHDP)

Basis for HDP
• downsize canopy volume and tree height
• pears: quince rootstocks (MC, MH, Adams)
• apples: M.9

• pre-formed nursery tree (knip-boom)
• root cutting
• ridge planting
• Plant Growth Regulators (apogee; auxin and ethephon; GA's; Promalin)

Production always a problem (lower) in the lower canopy

Quality more important than total yield; yield increased only to a point before quality suffers

Latest development: Bibaum apple nursery tree -- dual leader tree developed from double chip bud or bench graft; obviates need for canopy formation; productivity same as single but with less trees; quality equal or improved

Monday, February 8, 2010


I attended the Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention last week (Feb. 2-4) in Hershey, PA. The Convention is a collaboration of the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, the Maryland State Horticultural Society and the New Jersey State Horticultural Society. Penn State University, University of Maryland and Rutgers University Cooperative Extensions all assist in organizing the three days of educational sessions. The Convention has become one of the premier grower meetings in the Northeast with about 1,800 attendees.

While there I ‘tweeted’ to my Twitter. As you may (or may not) know, Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, i.e., they are brief. So, what follows are my ‘tweets’ from #MAFVC with a little more elaboration than Twitter allows. :-)

  • Easier to define what is NOT sustainable (soil erosion) than what is sustainable - David Granatstein #mafvc

Granatstein is with the Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee. After trying to explain what IS sustainable agriculture, which most parties agree is farming that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, Granatstein said it is a lot easier to provide examples of what is NOT sustainable agriculuture. Clearly, he said, soil erosion is not sustainable. Agreed?

  • Pests of increasing importance with 'soft' pesticide programs: PC, SJS, WAA, plant bugs, borers, EAS, and AMF. Dave Biddinger #mafvc

Biddinger is a long-time partner with entomology researchers (including Larry Hull) at PSU’s Biglerville Fruit Research & Extension Center. ‘Soft’/reduced-risk pesticide programs typically use newer chemistries targeted at controlling specific insects (usually the moth larvae fruit-feeders: codling moth, oriental fruit moth, oblique-banded leafroller, etc.) in lieu of broad-spectrum insecticides (organophosphates, pyrethroids, etc.). Mating disruption (MD) is also commonly used. Unfortunately, the softer pesticides and MD are letting certain pests ‘slip through’ and build up in orchards, resulting in more incidental but nonetheless important fruit and tree injury from Plum Curculio, San Jose Scale, Wooly Apple Aphid, European Apple Sawfly, Apple Maggot Fly, etc.

  • Only thing more contagious than passion, ironically...is the lack of it. Harold Lloydd #mafvc

Lloyd was the inspirational and entertaining general session speaker “Am I the Leader I Need to Be?

  • #1 Worker Protection Standard infraction - failure to realize covered by WPS. Jim Harvey, PSU #mafvc

The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a federal regulation designed to protect employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses from occupational exposures to agricultural pesticides. As a rule of thumb, all non-immediate-family members who work in a field or site that is within 30 days of a pesticide’s Restricted-Entry-Interval (REI, see ‘Agricultural Use Requirements’ on the label) and who receive compensation (of any kind, does not have to be money) are covered by the WPS. Hence, all requirements of the WPS -- including training, central posting, pesticide application notification, providing personal protective equipment, etc. -- must be followed by farm owners/operators/employers and (hopefully) employees.

  • 20th century IPM 'Industrial Age, time for another poison' vs. 21st century IPM 'Information Age, what management action, and optimized combination of tools.' John Wise MSU #mafvc

Wise, of Michigan State University’s Trevor Nichols Research Station says pest management is becoming much more complicated with new pesticide chemistries, which are more insect- and application timing-specific to be effective. Hence, the need to have more information about the pests current status, such as life stage and abundance, are necessary to be effective in this new ‘information age’ of pest management. Tools used to collect this information include research, weather monitoring, and pheromone traps. Growers are going to need help assimilating this information into effective pest management decisions.

  • Trying to use new chemistries on a calendar-based spray schedule is not going to be economically sustainable. J Wise #mafvc

Again, growers are going to have to time spray applications that target specific insect(s) at specific life stage timing vs. broad-spectrum applications on a fixed schedule or ‘time for another poison.’

  • Maxcel @ 200ppm effective at reducing fruit set (and hand-thinning time) in heavy-cropped Asian pears. Dan Ward #mafvc

Asian pears can set heavy crops, requiring labor-intensive hand thinning to produce large fruit that the market requires. Colleagues Dan Ward and Win Cowgill of Rutgers University have demonstrated that the apple and pear thinner Maxcel can be an effective tool under the right conditions for thinning Asian pears.

  • Fruit quality and yield are directly related to light interception and management-trees are solar collectors. Kevin Day #mafvc

Day is an extension specialist/researcher at UC Davis/Kearneysville. He gave the Ernie Christ Memorial Lecture -- ‘Training Systems in Peaches and Their Costs.’ The more light you can intercept (and distribute) by the orchard canopy, equals higher fruit yield and better fruit quality. We all know that, right? Oh wait, see next post. :-)

  • Short [peach] trees had greater ability to size fruit than large trees, yield did not suffer (need 70% light interception). K Day #mafvc

Interesting, because Kevin and his colleagues in California had been promoting the perpendicular-V peach planting and training system, which normally has tall (12-14 foot high) trees. But, he showed when the canopy grows together at the top, approaching 100% light interception, yield and quality did not increase above an orchard that is intercepting 70% light. Therefore, they are cutting perp-V and quad- and hex- peaches down to 8 foot height, while maintaining yield and quality compared to taller trees. In fact, fruit were larger in the shorter trees.

Enough said?

  • Our biggest limiting factor is to fill the space quickly (re. hi-density apples). Chris Baugher #mafvc

Chris runs Adams County Nursery's production orchard. When planting young, hi-density apple orchards using 3 to 4 foot spacing between trees, to make the economics work you need to fill the space between trees quickly (in 1-2 years) and begin producing fruit. Factors such as nursery tree quality, site prep, promptly supporting and irrigating, N fertilization, etc. need utmost attention.

  • 2.8% leaf N for peaches ideal. K Day #mafvc

This is a little lower than what we typically recommend in the east, that is 3.5 to 4%. Of course California is not the east too. Something to think about, could we have somewhat firmer fruit at mature harvest and/or overall better fruit quality and yields with N a little lower. I might try it.

  • Use monoammonium phosphate (MAP) @ 1/3 lb per tree at planting -- trees get off to much better start. K Day #mafvc
Phosphorous promotes root growth -- much work has been done on using supplemental P when planting new orchards. Highly advised for all new peach and apple orchards.

  • Monitoring with pheromone traps the basis of IPM. Larry Hull #mafvc

Hull is a PSU guru on insect management, particularly lepidopteran pests. Models that use a biofix -- typically when a certain number of adult moths have been captured or first appear -- are increasingly being used to time targeted pesticide applications. See the obliquebanded leafroller model.

  • Automated pheromone traps that send results by e-mail where we are headed. L Hull #mafvc

Pheromone traps that take pictures of accumulated moth trap captures and automatically e-mail (via wireless I presume) the results? I like it. Next step, just compute whether the threshold has been met or not -- that is all the end user needs to know. You heard it here first. :-)