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
Crop ProtectionNimitz Receives Section 24(c) Label In Florida
September 4, 2015
The nematicide can be used in several Florida counties on direct-seeded crops. Read More
TomatoesCalifornia’s 2015 Processing Tomato Crop Is Forecast To Hit Record High
September 4, 2015
Production is forecast 4% above the 2014 crop, in part due to low disease and pest pressure. Read More
Apples & PearsPractices To Prevent Honeycrisp Postharvest Disorders
September 4, 2015
Honeycrisp can be extremely challenging to grow, harvest, and store. In the latest Penn State University Extension bulletin, Tara Baugher, Read More
GrapesWashington Winegrape Harvest Earlier Than Ever
September 3, 2015
  This year’s juice and winegrape harvest in Washington is historic. Michelle Moyer, Washington State University assistant professor, Dept. of Read More
FruitsBeaudry, Watkins, And Davenport Named Fellows Of American Society for Horticultural Science
September 3, 2015
Randolph Beaudry of Michigan State University (MSU), Joan Davenport of Washington State University (WSU), and Christopher Watkins of Cornell University Read More
GrapesWildfires Raise Fears Of Grape Smoke Taint
September 3, 2015
 The current wildfires in Washington have left many growers wondering if smoke taint could impact the flavor of their winegrapes. Read More
FruitsOrganic Industry Unites To “Bust Myths” Throughout September
September 2, 2015
Organic Trade Association members join forces in social media blitz to address misconceptions about organic production. Read More
CitrusResearchers Use Wasps To Protect Citrus Trees From Greening
September 2, 2015
A recent story in the Los Angeles Times highlights some of the new research being conducted in the fight against Read More
Apples & PearsHard Cider Organization Offers Accredited Program
September 1, 2015
United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) introduces Sicera, the first-ever hard Cider Certification Program. This accreditation program is designed Read More
Apples & PearsProducts To Help Prevent Preharvest Drop In Apple Orchards
September 1, 2015
In the latest Extension bulletin from Penn State University, James Schupp associate professor of pomology suggests several products to apply Read More
The Latest
Crop ProtectionNimitz Receives Section 24(c) Label In Florida
September 4, 2015
The nematicide can be used in several Florida counties on direct-seeded crops. Read More
TomatoesCalifornia’s 2015 Processing Tomato Crop Is Forecast To…
September 4, 2015
Production is forecast 4% above the 2014 crop, in part due to low disease and pest pressure. Read More
Apples & PearsPractices To Prevent Honeycrisp Postharvest Disorders
September 4, 2015
Honeycrisp can be extremely challenging to grow, harvest, and store. In the latest Penn State University Extension bulletin, Tara Baugher, Read More
GrapesWashington Winegrape Harvest Earlier Than Ever
September 3, 2015
  This year’s juice and winegrape harvest in Washington is historic. Michelle Moyer, Washington State University assistant professor, Dept. of Read More
FruitsBeaudry, Watkins, And Davenport Named Fellows Of Ameri…
September 3, 2015
Randolph Beaudry of Michigan State University (MSU), Joan Davenport of Washington State University (WSU), and Christopher Watkins of Cornell University Read More
GrapesWildfires Raise Fears Of Grape Smoke Taint
September 3, 2015
 The current wildfires in Washington have left many growers wondering if smoke taint could impact the flavor of their winegrapes. Read More
FruitsOrganic Industry Unites To “Bust Myths” Thr…
September 2, 2015
Organic Trade Association members join forces in social media blitz to address misconceptions about organic production. Read More
CitrusResearchers Use Wasps To Protect Citrus Trees From Gree…
September 2, 2015
A recent story in the Los Angeles Times highlights some of the new research being conducted in the fight against Read More
Apples & PearsHard Cider Organization Offers Accredited Program
September 1, 2015
United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) introduces Sicera, the first-ever hard Cider Certification Program. This accreditation program is designed Read More
Apples & PearsProducts To Help Prevent Preharvest Drop In Apple Orcha…
September 1, 2015
In the latest Extension bulletin from Penn State University, James Schupp associate professor of pomology suggests several products to apply Read More
Apples & PearsMarvin Sundquist Dies At 89
September 1, 2015
Marvin Sundquist, the retired owner of Sundquist Fruit and Cold Storage, died on Aug. 29 at the age of 89, Read More
Apples & PearsSyngenta Receives EPA Registration For Solatenol  Fungi…
September 1, 2015
The fungicide is available in four product offerings, pending state registrations. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardPero Family Farms Is The 2015 Grower Achievement Award …
September 1, 2015
The farm family that runs this Delray Beach-FL based operation develops, produces, packages, and markets its fresh-cut products while continuing to think outside the box. Read More
Dennis P. Broadaway
CitrusFlorida Citrus Packers Bestows Association’s Highest Ho…
September 1, 2015
For his dedication to the Sunshine State’s fresh citrus sector, Dennis Broadaway receives John T. Lesley Award for Excellence. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardSaving Citrus A Perpetual Task
September 1, 2015
Orie Lee, the 2015 Citrus Achievement Award winner, talks about how growing citrus has changed in his lifetime and how it hasn't. Read More
Florida Ag Expo10th Annual Florida Ag Expo Field Tours To Tackle Produ…
September 1, 2015
There will be plenty to see and learn during the milestone event's exclusive field trials. Read More
Apples & PearsPennsylvania Congressman Supports CIDER Act
August 31, 2015
Freshman Congressman Ryan Costello (PA-06) spent a recent afternoon at Frecon Farms in Boyertown, PA, to tout the CIDER Act, Read More
Oriental Fruit fly
CitrusExotic Fruit Flies Invade South Florida
August 31, 2015
Efforts are under way to eradicate pest that attacks more than 230 different fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Read More