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

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

Insect & Disease UpdateAdditional Aid Coming For Florida Citrus Growers Gouged…
September 17, 2014
Through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program, eligible growers can cash in on cost share for diseased tree removal and replanting. Read More
FruitsFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Seeks Fresh A…
September 17, 2014
New partnership bolsters Fresh From Florida program. Read More
CitrusFDA Announces Cooperative Agreement To Implement Nation…
September 17, 2014
Agreement will provide information to help plan and carry out the produce safety rule in partnership with state regulatory agencies. Read More
NutsAchieving A Super-Premium Walnut Crop
September 17, 2014
What are the best ways to get high quality walnuts that are light in color and fully developed? Read these 8 harvest best practices to find out. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Highly Dependent On Groundwater
September 17, 2014
Fully 87% of large growers use groundwater to irrigate their trees. Read More
NutsWarm Winter And Drought Casting Doubt On Pistachio Harv…
September 17, 2014
Though Rabobank report says that one billion pounds still attainable by 2019. Read More
Crop ProtectionBagrada Bug On The Move In California
September 16, 2014
Find out more on management tactics and what counties are impacted by this invasive pest. Read More
Cucurbits14 Stand-Out Melon Varieties [Slideshow]
September 15, 2014
Browse the slideshow below for information on these exceptional melon varieties from the nation’s leading seed breeders and distributors. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardView Highlights From The 2014 United Fresh Washington P…
September 15, 2014
Browse this slideshow to view photos from the 2014 United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference, including pictures of this year’s Grower Read More
Apples & PearsCanneries Hope To Encourage Growers To Grow Pears For P…
September 15, 2014
Higher wholesale prices offered as means to boost canning pear acres. Read More
FruitsDeadline Nearing For Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistanc…
September 15, 2014
Fruit growers who suffered losses due to frost or freeze in 2012 could be eligible for assistance through USDA’S Farm Service Agency. Read More
BerriesBotrytis Gray Mold Pressure Increasing With Humid Weath…
September 15, 2014
Michigan State University researcher offers tips to reduce the spread of spores. Read More
Fruits5 Mistakes You May Be Making With Your Orchard’s …
September 15, 2014
These deadly sins may be hurting your customers’ experience — and costing you money. Read More
FruitsSuccess And The Not-Top-100 Grower [Opinion]
September 15, 2014
Innovation isn't only happening at the top. Some of the most interesting ideas in the fruit industry are being executed by small growers. Read More
Apples & PearsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Appl…
September 13, 2014
The nations’s largest growers reflect how technology, innovations, and promotion help make their businesses run more efficiently. Read More
NutsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Nut …
September 13, 2014
Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts grown in California make up the crops featured in this portion of the Top 100 Report. Read More
FruitsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top 100 …
September 13, 2014
The nations’s largest growers reflect how technology, innovations, and promotion help make their businesses run more efficiently. Read More
Stone FruitAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Ston…
September 13, 2014
This year’s Top 100 Report features the 25 largest stone fruit growers in the country. Read More