Stone Fruit: Are You Stressed?

Stone Fruit: Are You Stressed?

When you drive through the orchard and see trees that are performing poorly or dying, it can be a source of tremendous stress to you as a grower. For the trees you just observed, they too, may be experiencing significant stress!

Plant stress is driven by numerous factors that adversely affect plant health, growth, productivity, and survival. Some stress factors directly impact tree assimilate dynamics (acquisition and utilization of water, nutrients, energy, and carbohydrates — see figure). These factors are living (biotic) or non-living (abiotic). Often, multiple stress factors can occur simultaneously or successively. Some stresses are chronic (systemic viral infection) while others may be acute (temporary drought).

Avoiding Stress

The first key to managing orchard stress is to avoid it in the first place through good management. Indeed, many stressful orchard conditions can be avoided if you choose a good site, pre-plant fumigate the soil, and choose the proper rootstock. Further, choosing the correct cultivar based on chill hours for your region and pest/disease tolerance is vital. Planting trees at the proper soil depth (graft union 4 inches above soil line) is necessary to keep feeder roots in the proper soil zone and to enhance tree stability.

Careful use of orchard machinery and proper timing and use of pruning tools can minimize damage to tree trunks and promote rapid healing of wounds on scaffold branches and limbs, respectively. Proper crop load management through pruning and thinning can facilitate strong scaffolds that won’t break under the pressure of a heavy crop. Finally, careful weed, pest, and disease management combined with adequate water and fertility can help to keep trees productive and healthy.

When speaking about orchard stress, it is also important to make several distinctions. It may be localized (part of a single tree or a few trees near each other) or it may be widespread (hundreds of trees in a low spot where there was standing water). One type of stress can exacerbate another — for example, trees that have been hit by hail causing numerous bark and trunk wounds provide attractive sites for lesser peach tree borer females to lay eggs or disease entry.

Some types of stress are reversible (i.e., nitrogen deficiency) while others (systemic viral infection) will persist throughout the life of the tree. It is also important to consider the timing of stress relative to key phenological growth stages. For fruit during the period of final swell (last two weeks before harvest), drought stress could have a very significant adverse impact on final fruit size. In severe cases of heat/drought stress, trees may actually drop fruit prematurely.

Identifying Stress

A key to managing orchard stress is being able to identify what is occurring with the goal of rectifying the situation or managing it to the greatest extent possible. There are numerous biotic stresses that adversely impact peach trees. These include insects, fungal diseases, bacterial diseases, viruses, viroids, mycoplasmas, nematodes, weeds, and even browsing animals (i.e., deer). There are numerous abiotic stresses, as well. These include solar radiation (sunburn), air and soil temperature (too hot or cold), inadequate chilling, rainfall (too much or too little), soil pH (too high or low; 6-7 usually best), soil nutrition (deficiency or excess), soil structure and aeration, excess wind, hail, herbicide drift, and even air pollution (ozone, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen fluoride).

Finally, it is of vital importance to deal with factors that you can control and to consider the long-term impact on the tree. For example, if a block is compromised by hail, abandoning it until next year without a minimal fungicide/insecticide program to protect the tree and help minimize wound infection or boring of insects would be unwise. Some modest efforts could help to facilitate healing and significant recovery for cropping next year. Keeping good records from one year to the next by block will help to remind you of trees that had problems, what corrective measures were taken, and what the response was. Lastly, try to learn from and not repeat errors. We all make them but the wise person learns from them and doesn’t repeat them.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Production
March 1, 2017
Iran Is Moving All Vegetable Growing Into Greenhouses
Iran will be converting all its vegetable farms to greenhouses within 10 years, The Financial Tribune reports. Its agriculture minister Read More
Florida red grapefruit samples
Grapefruit & Specialty
March 1, 2017
Is South Korea a Grapefruit Market Goldmine?
Researchers are finding high demand for the tart citrus, opening the door for opportunistic Florida growers to fill the need. Read More
Fruits
March 1, 2017
Prepare for Takeoff of Horticultural Technology [Opinion]
While agricultural technology has been talked about for a while, it seems like it's time to put on your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. Read More
honeybees
CEU Series
March 1, 2017
CEU Series: Be Aware of Bees When Applying Pesticides
As a pesticide applicator, it is your duty to reduce risks for pollinators. Read More
Fruits
February 28, 2017
Growers’ Help Wanted on Spotted Wing Drosophila Survey
National project needs input on how the nasty pest affected your farms in 2016. Read More
Citrus
February 28, 2017
Trump Set to Ditch Controversial Water Rule
WOTUS could be on the way out after an executive order calls for a top-to-bottom review. Read More
Farm Management
February 28, 2017
Key Cabinet Picks Likely Good News for Growers
National Potato Council's John Keeling weighs in on how President Trump's picks for to head up EPA and Department of Agriculture will impact vegetable growers. Read More
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Growers Shouldn’t Panic
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
UF/IFAS researcher Cristina Pisani examines ailing avocado tree
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Florida Avocado Growers
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
The Latest
Production
March 1, 2017
Iran Is Moving All Vegetable Growing Int…
Iran will be converting all its vegetable farms to greenhouses within 10 years, The Financial Tribune reports. Its agriculture minister Read More
Grapefruit & Specialty
March 1, 2017
Is South Korea a Grapefruit Market Goldm…
Researchers are finding high demand for the tart citrus, opening the door for opportunistic Florida growers to fill the need. Read More
Fruits
March 1, 2017
Prepare for Takeoff of Horticultural Tec…
While agricultural technology has been talked about for a while, it seems like it's time to put on your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. Read More
CEU Series
March 1, 2017
CEU Series: Be Aware of Bees When Applyi…
As a pesticide applicator, it is your duty to reduce risks for pollinators. Read More
Fruits
February 28, 2017
Growers’ Help Wanted on Spotted Wing Dro…
National project needs input on how the nasty pest affected your farms in 2016. Read More
Citrus
February 28, 2017
Trump Set to Ditch Controversial Water R…
WOTUS could be on the way out after an executive order calls for a top-to-bottom review. Read More
Farm Management
February 28, 2017
Key Cabinet Picks Likely Good News for G…
National Potato Council's John Keeling weighs in on how President Trump's picks for to head up EPA and Department of Agriculture will impact vegetable growers. Read More
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Grow…
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Fl…
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Getting to the Root of Devastating Stone…
Armillaria root rot is a death sentence for trees and replant sites; however, researchers are looking to breed fungus-resistant rootstocks to make replanting economically feasible. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush …
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in …
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Citrus
February 25, 2017
Citrus Research Investments Yielding Pos…
Despite still having mounds of wood to chop, grower, federal, and state programs collectively are making a dent. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry A…
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on t…
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
In-The-Field Learning Invaluable for Gen…
Annual tour allows Florida's future farming leaders the chance to have open and honest discussions with CEOs and managers and tap into their knowledge. Read More