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
Tomato bug
Insect ControlStop Tomato Bugs From Sucking Your Crops Dry
May 21, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
UF/IFAS developmental biologist Dennis Gray looks at the progress of grapevines in a vineyard.
Crop ProtectionResearcher Using ‘Precision Breeding’ To Create Disease-Resistant Winegrapes
May 20, 2015
Breakthrough would mean significant savings on pesticide and fungicide sprays. Read More
Spraying indoor citrus
Protected AgricultureInterest Continues To Grow In Protected Citriculture
May 20, 2015
Inside move could put producers in prime scoring position. Read More
Expansion groundbreaking for Southwest Florida Research and Education Center
CitrusSouthwest Florida Research And Education Center Embracing New Expansion
May 20, 2015
A 7,000-square-foot addition to the UF/IFAS facility will house labs and offices for potential new faculty members. Read More
storm clouds
CitrusSouth Florida Rainy Season Could Wind Up On Drier Side
May 20, 2015
National Weather Service anticipating El Niño to play a hand in possible below-normal conditions. Read More
Food SafetyProduce Safety Alliance Offers Course To Become A Certified Trainer
May 20, 2015
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) has announced dates for their first two Train-the-Trainer courses this June. The first of the Read More
GrapesMatthew Fidelibus To Be Recognized For Extension Work
May 20, 2015
The American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) recently announced that Western Fruit Grower™ magazine contributor Matthew W. Fidelibus, of Read More
Apples & PearsGrants Available For Farmworker Education
May 19, 2015
Grants are available for farmworkers and their families interested in attending adult educational programs through the Washington Apple Educational Foundation Read More
Fruits$10 Million Available For California Water Conservation Program
May 19, 2015
Applications for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) are now Read More
CitrusBad Weather Or Not, Preparation Always On Radar For Florida Farmers [Opinion]
May 19, 2015
You cannot prevent a natural disaster from taking everything you have, but you can lessen the blow if and when it happens. Read More
The Latest
Tomato bug
Insect ControlStop Tomato Bugs From Sucking Your Crops Dry
May 21, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
UF/IFAS developmental biologist Dennis Gray looks at the progress of grapevines in a vineyard.
Crop ProtectionResearcher Using ‘Precision Breeding’ To Cr…
May 20, 2015
Breakthrough would mean significant savings on pesticide and fungicide sprays. Read More
Spraying indoor citrus
Protected AgricultureInterest Continues To Grow In Protected Citriculture
May 20, 2015
Inside move could put producers in prime scoring position. Read More
Expansion groundbreaking for Southwest Florida Research and Education Center
CitrusSouthwest Florida Research And Education Center Embraci…
May 20, 2015
A 7,000-square-foot addition to the UF/IFAS facility will house labs and offices for potential new faculty members. Read More
storm clouds
CitrusSouth Florida Rainy Season Could Wind Up On Drier Side
May 20, 2015
National Weather Service anticipating El Niño to play a hand in possible below-normal conditions. Read More
Food SafetyProduce Safety Alliance Offers Course To Become A Certi…
May 20, 2015
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) has announced dates for their first two Train-the-Trainer courses this June. The first of the Read More
GrapesMatthew Fidelibus To Be Recognized For Extension Work
May 20, 2015
The American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) recently announced that Western Fruit Grower™ magazine contributor Matthew W. Fidelibus, of Read More
Apples & PearsGrants Available For Farmworker Education
May 19, 2015
Grants are available for farmworkers and their families interested in attending adult educational programs through the Washington Apple Educational Foundation Read More
Fruits$10 Million Available For California Water Conservation…
May 19, 2015
Applications for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) are now Read More
CitrusBad Weather Or Not, Preparation Always On Radar For Flo…
May 19, 2015
You cannot prevent a natural disaster from taking everything you have, but you can lessen the blow if and when it happens. Read More
Sweet CornGrower, Marketer Team Up To Launch Line Of Single-Serve…
May 19, 2015
Next Level Fresh, LLC announced the introduction of Fresh Life Harvest Whole Ear Gourmet Sweet Corn. The concept was developed Read More
CitrusSave Your Greenhouse Structures From Storms
May 19, 2015
Make sure your protected agriculture components are prepared for whatever may blow this way. Read More
FruitsGreen Fruitworm Numbers High In Pennsylvania
May 19, 2015
In their latest insect report, David Biddinger and Grzegorz Krawczyk, tree fruit entomologists discuss the timing of pest control applications Read More
Apples & PearsApple Scab Alert
May 18, 2015
Kari Peter of Penn State University Extension warned growers of possible apple scab and fire blight infections following the rainy Read More
FruitsUSDA To Invest $21M To Help Growers Cope With Drought
May 18, 2015
USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will allocate $21 million for growers and ranchers to apply conservation practices in the Read More
BB Hobbs Inc. warehouse in Plant City, FL
CitrusBB Hobbs Bolsters Business In Central Florida
May 18, 2015
Irrigation specialists celebrate opening of new branch warehouse in Plant City. Read More
Disease ControlHow To Control Disease During Rainy Weather
May 18, 2015
The recent warm, wet weather conditions are prime for fungal and bacterial diseases, says Annemiek Schilder of Michigan State University Read More
FertilizerBioWorks Launches New Fertilizer And Biostimulant
May 15, 2015
BioWorks, Inc., launched ON-Gard, a new organic fertilizer and biostimulant. ON-Gard is a 100% plant-derived product with organic nitrogen and Read More