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  • Author or Editor: Tara A. Baugher x
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Peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) thinning is a costly and time-consuming but necessary practice to produce a crop of marketable size fruit. A number of mechanical devices and methods have been developed and evaluated to reduce the cost and time required for hand thinning peach. This report provides additional evidence that a Darwin string thinner can effectively thin peach at bloom and a spiked drum shaker can thin at bloom or at the green fruit (pit hardening) stage. Five trials were conducted over 2 years in grower orchards with trees trained to a perpendicular V system. A Darwin string thinner at 60% to 80% full bloom (FB) reduced crop load (fruit/cm2 limb cross-sectional area) on scaffold limbs by 21% to 50% compared with a hand-thinned control. At the 60% FB stage, a USDA-designed double-spiked drum shaker reduced crop load by 27% and in another trial, a USDA prototype single-drum shaker reduced crop load by 9%. Across all trials, the spiked drum shakers (single or double units) removed an average of 37% of the green fruit. All mechanical devices reduced the time required for follow-up hand thinning. Follow-up hand-thinning costs (US$/ha) were reduced an average of 27% by mechanical thinning devices over hand-thinned control trees. Fruit size was increased over hand-thinned controls by mechanical thinning in most, but not all, trials. A combined treatment of the Darwin string thinner at bloom followed by a drum shaker (single or double unit) at the green fruit stage produced the greatest net economic impact in a number of the trials. Despite overthinning in some trials, the mechanical thinning devices described provide a potential alternative to hand thinning alone in peach production.

Free access

Pruning is the cutting away of vegetation from plants for horticultural purposes. Pruning is known to reduce apple tree size, increase fruit size and quality, and decrease yield. Methods for studying the effects of varying degrees of severity of pruning on a whole-tree basis have used qualitative descriptions of treatments rather than repeatable whole-tree quantitative metrics. In this study, we introduce a pruning severity index calculated from the sum of the cross-sectional area of all branches on a tree at 2.5 cm from their union to the central leader divided by the cross-sectional area of its central leader at 30 cm from the graft union. This limb to trunk ratio (LTR) was then modified by successively removing the largest branches of ‘Buckeye Gala’ to achieve six severity levels ranging from LTR 0.5 to LTR 1.75, with lower values representing more extreme pruning with less whole-tree limb area relative to trunk area. Pruning treatments were applied for three consecutive years and tree growth and cropping responses were observed for the first 2 years. With increasing pruning severity the following characteristics increased after seasonal growth: number of renewal limbs, number of shoots, shoot length, number of shoot leaves, shoot leaf area, final fruit set, fruit size, yield of large fruit, crop value from large fruit, soluble solids, and titratable acidity. The following characteristics decreased: limb age, number of secondary limbs, number of spurs, number of spur leaves, spur leaf area, the ratio of spur leaf area to shoot leaf area, fruit count per tree, yield, yield efficiency, crop value from small fruit, overall crop value, and sugar:acid ratio. The LTR provides a measurable way to define and create different levels of pruning severity and achieve consistent outcomes. This allows a greater degree of accuracy and precision to dormant pruning of tall spindle apple trees. The use of the LTR to establish the level of pruning severity allows the orchard manager to set crop load potential through regulation of the canopy bearing surface. This metric is also a necessary step in the development of autonomous pruning systems.

Free access

Abstract

A mechanical bloom-thinning technique, using suspended flexible strands of rubber belting or rope moved through trees on a frame mounted on a forklift, was tested on ‘Early Loring’ peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch]. Heaviest thinning occurred in the upper two-thirds of the tree canopy. Shoot orientation and flower position did not affect bloom removal. Maximum bloom removal occurred at full bloom when the thinning machine passed through a tree at least four times. Operating at an increased tractor speed increased thinning. The most effective treatments removed 45% to 59% of the blossoms, reduced number of fruit from 18 to around 10/cm2 limb cross-sectional area (CSA) and reduced hand thinning time by 30%.

Open Access