HORTICULTURAL AND ECONOMIC COMPARISON OF HAND VERSUS MECHANICAL PRUNING IN A HIGH DENSITY FRENCH PRUNE ORCHARD

in HortScience

French prunes (Prunus domestica L.) on myrobalan seedling rootstock were planted in 1981 in an east-west direction with 4.9 m between rows and 2.7 m between trees on a poorly drained Class II soil in Glenn County, CA. A randomized complete block design was used with 8 trees per plot. Trees were pruned by hand to an open-center tree form or pruned by machine to a pyramid form in the dormant or summer season resulting in 6 pruning treatments. This high density system has led to high yields of good quality fruit (9.18 dry tons/acre in 1989, sized at 78 fruit per pound). Hand pruning led to higher yields, larger fruit, lower drying ratios and a greater dollar return per acre than any of the machine pruned trees. Dormant machine pruning led to larger fruit produced than those trees pruned in the summer by machine. Mechanical pruning may be possible for short time periods, but continued practice led to smaller fruit with lower yields than hand pruning. Certain locations within the tree canopy had smaller fruit size and it is within those lower locations where fruit size needs to be improved. These and additional experimental results obtained from 1987 through 1989 growing seasons will be presented.

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