266 Response of Winter-injured Peach Trees to Pruning

in HortScience
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  • 1USDA-ARS, Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, WV 25430; 2Virginia Tech, Alson H. Smith, Jr., AREC, Winchester, VA 22602

When temperatures reach -26 °C and lower, even for brief periods of time, damage to fruit buds and woody tissue of the peach tree is common. Low temperature injury on peach can lead to bark damage, gummosis, increased incidence of perennial canker, partial or complete crop losses, reduced shoot growth and/or tree death. In Jan. 1994 the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and surrounding states experienced three successive nights of temperatures at -28 °C or lower. Beginning in Apr. 1994, 7-year-old `Blake'/Lovell peach trees were subjected to four pruning levels (none, light, heavy, and dehorned) each at three times (April, May, and June) in a replicated factorial arrangement. Specific pruning treatments were applied only in 1994; a local commercially recommended level and time of pruning were applied to all trees from 1995 through 1998. Treatments had a significant effect on canopy volume and fruit yields. Trees receiving no pruning or dehorned trees and trees pruned in June had lower yields in 1995 than trees pruned in April or May or trees receiving a light or heavy pruning. These treatments also produced fewer large fruit at harvest. Lower yields and smaller fruit led to reduced dollar returns per hectare in 1995. Yields from 1996 through 1998 were lower for trees that were dehorned pruned in 1994 although there were little or no differences in fruit sizes between treatments. Time and/or level of pruning had effects on the number of cankers and number of large (>5.1 cm) cankers.

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