Blossom Thinner Pays Off

Blossom Thinner Pays Off

As a group of Northern California clingstone peach growers crowded around, Roger Duncan fired up a tractor-mounted string blossom thinner and started in on a row of Ross peaches in an orchard south of Modesto. Duncan, a University of California (UC) farm adviser in Stanislaus County, was clearly pumped up about the possibilities of the Darwin PT 250.

Imported from Germany, the thinner has so far shown to have a huge impact on growers’ bottom lines, said Duncan. In fact, the $16,000 unit may very well pay for itself in just one year of use, he said. What comes as a surprise to many, however, is that the thinner doesn’t just save growers money on thinning costs by reducing the amount of hand labor.

Duncan says that the greatest boon to the grower comes from an increase in gross income because of increased fruit size due to thinning earlier in the season. “The sooner you thin, the less inter-fruit competition you have,” he said. “It’s like the ‘Old Lady In The Shoe.’ If you kick kids out earlier, the remaining kids get bigger.”

Increased Tonnage

For example, in one trial on Loadel and Tuolumne orchards, Duncan said the time required to hand thin was reduced by 27% and 22%, respectively, resulting in cost savings of $386 and $297 per acre. Even better, the yields were increased by 2.8 and 3.0 tons per acre, respectively, resulting in gross income gains of $997 and $954. Add it up and the growers realized net per acre income gains of $1,383 on the Loadel and $1,251 on the Tuolumne orchards.

However, it’s important to note that these impressive results came in a warm, short growing season and generally heavy sets in the test orchards — ideal for a blossom thinner. In addition, the trees were trained to a “V,” not the more traditional vase training system (like the trees in the photo). “When the trees are trained to a ‘V’ you will get a wall of flowers,” he said. “That’s what we think will work the best.”

It’s also important to note that in addition to the training system, the variety selection will have a great impact on results. Because it’s important to thin the early season varieties as early as possible to reduce competition and give the remaining fruit more time to size up, the thinner will work best on them. Growers won’t see such potentially dramatic increases in yields in the varieties harvested late in the season.

Great Adjustability

There can also be a wide variation in how the unit itself is employed. It has 24-inch rubber cords attached in columns along a 10-foot boom. You can add additional strings, and it stands to reason that the more strings you have, the more thinning you will do. In addition, the more strings you have, the fewer revolutions per minute you will need to get the same amount of thinning.

Ordinarily, growers will run the Darwin in the range of 175 to 225 rpm, moving through the orchard at about 1.5 miles per hour. Depending on the variety, the training system, the stage of bloom, as well as a host of other factors, growers will want to adjust their approach accordingly, said Maxwell Norton, who is Duncan’s UCCE counterpart in Merced County. “For instance, if the blossoms are coming off easily, you can turn it down, but if they’re not coming off as easily, you can turn it up,” he says. “You can tweak it in several different ways.”

Unfortunately, during this March demonstration, the Darwin was stuck on its maximum speed of 350 rpm. Duncan had to halt the demonstration almost immediately for fear he might do a number on grower Chuck Voss’s trees. But the growers on hand seemed undeterred by the glitch, in part because of testimonials from growers such Paul Van Konynenburg, who farms west of Modesto. Van Konynenburg said he bought a unit prior to last season, and it paid for itself in the 2010 crop year. “Now I’m doing all my Loadel and Tuolumne (blocks) with it,” he said, adding that he was doing checks on other varieties.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Crop Protection
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Beneficial Research
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes Amendment to H-2A Program
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
July 21, 2017
University of California Launches Website to Update Growers on Citrus Research
Easy-to-read format designed to give growers up-to-date information on huanglongbing and Asian citrus psyllid research. Read More
Hurricane Matthew satellite image as it brushed past Florida
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a Notch
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Sunset on Florida potato field day
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Places for Growing Produce
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This Week
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Sweet Corn
July 19, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Corn ‘Anthem XR’ from Rispens Seeds
Each month, American Vegetable Grower® will offer growing tips on specific varieties, supplied by the breeder or distributor. This month, we’re offering Read More
farm hacks collage
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your Farm Hacks
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Organic
July 19, 2017
4 Challenges Large Operations Face in Organic Vegetable Production
Organic vegetable production in Monterey County has evolved over the past 25 years. It was once the domain of small- Read More
Farm Management
July 19, 2017
Tom Nunes, V: The Best Labor Solutions Are When Everyone Wins
Competition for skilled farm labor is fierce in the West. But Nunes Vegetables, Inc. believes when growers work together, they will attract more workers to their community. Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg Mass Found
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Rain drops on leaf
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Winning at Water Quality
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
cut watermelon
Cucurbits
July 13, 2017
Scientists Keying in on Sweeter and Stronger Watermelon Varieties
New study shows grafting can give growers an upper hand on soilborne disease threats. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opinion]
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
2015 FFVA Annual Convention crowd
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Convention Agenda
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
The Latest
Crop Protection
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Benefic…
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes …
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
July 21, 2017
University of California Launches Websit…
Easy-to-read format designed to give growers up-to-date information on huanglongbing and Asian citrus psyllid research. Read More
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a N…
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Pl…
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This …
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Sweet Corn
July 19, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Corn &#…
Each month, American Vegetable Grower® will offer growing tips on specific varieties, supplied by the breeder or distributor. This month, we’re offering Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your …
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Organic
July 19, 2017
4 Challenges Large Operations Face in Or…
Organic vegetable production in Monterey County has evolved over the past 25 years. It was once the domain of small- Read More
Farm Management
July 19, 2017
Tom Nunes, V: The Best Labor Solutions A…
Competition for skilled farm labor is fierce in the West. But Nunes Vegetables, Inc. believes when growers work together, they will attract more workers to their community. Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg …
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Win…
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Cucurbits
July 13, 2017
Scientists Keying in on Sweeter and Stro…
New study shows grafting can give growers an upper hand on soilborne disease threats. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opin…
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Ve…
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Shaky Florida Citrus Season Skids to a S…
Final USDA tally confirms continuing downward trend of production in the HLB era. Read More
Citrus Achievement Award
July 12, 2017
Encourage New Citrus Growth by Getting B…
2017 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Ed Pines says producing crops under protective screen is a way to farm more and stress less. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibali…
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More