This is the time of year when I hear a number of comments reflecting back on the season. The percent of a full crop varied widely from farm to farm, district to district. A bit of hail here and there. Less soft suture and split pits. For most of the stone fruit volume, a short crop that continued to get shorter as the season progressed. One topic that came up at several different packers over the last couple of weeks bears mentioning. I heard the statement, “I had to cull a lot of their fruit due to early season damage”. It's common for growers to be a bit shell shocked and gun shy in the spring due to frost. A number of mornings you wonder if there's anything left. Our first reaction is to tighten the purse strings. We start cutting our programs back before we have a true picture of what's really left. I have a list of programs for my orchard that are written in stone. I'm going to do all of them without fail... no matter what. If I second guess any of them I'll end up regretting it by the end of the season! One of these “commandments” is to not change anything until hand thinning time. I'll spend a 100% of my budget up to that point whether I think I have a full crop or a lost one. Now hold on.... don't get cynical just yet, I don't have my chemical salesman hat on! I've found that more often than not, I have a profitable crop hanging in my orchard. The quickest way to change that is to not protect it from pests (insects and disease). Don't let your fruit slide down the “cull” shoot because early in the season you thought all was lost! No one likes to hear his packer comment...“I had to cull a lot of their fruit due to early season damage”.
2009 will go down as the year of Coryneum Blight. This springs' weather brought about more blight than ever before. Standard protection programs failed in a lot of orchards. If you found blight marked fruit in your bins, starting your clean up program this fall will go a long way towards a clean crop next year. The first autumn rains can start the spread of the disease. Infection can take place in the dormant season if proper moisture and temperature conditions occur. Spores, spread primarily by splashing water can remain viable several months. The key to control is PREVENTION. This is especially true if you’re farming with organic methods. Establishing a protective barrier with copper is vital to keep Coryneum from germinating and spreading. Good sprayer coverage is important! The disease usually starts low inside the tree where moisture persists, so be sure and target this area. The most common application timing is at 50% leaf fall. It’s not necessary to wait for that to happen. If we have a wet September you could be behind by the time leaf fall occurs. How aggressive you need to be with rates and applications depends on if you need to clean up a problem or are just performing routine maintenance. A fieldman friend in Washington state mentioned that he has his growers add a sticker to all their Fall copper sprays. He said it's easy to still see the copper on the tree in February.
I made a comment in last Septembers' newsletter regarding the prevalence of Coryneum blight. It seems like the last several years it has become more of a problem. The following quote comes from the 1996 Colorado Tree Fruits crop management guide. “Once established in an orchard, Coryneum blight is difficult to eradicate. Infected buds and twigs may produce spores for 2 to 3 years. A conscientious annual program of chemical control with particular emphasis on fall sprays and removal of dead wood is necessary over a 3-year period to alleviate the problem. Summer sprays also may be needed until control has been obtained.”
“You can tell the ideals of a nation by it’s advertisements” Norman Douglas
Here’s three websites that I turn to often for answers:
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/crops-agriculture.html This is a great site for insect info.
http://www.cdms.net/LabelsMsds/LMDefault.aspx?t= This site will bring up any pesticide label.
http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/Organic/MaterialsLists.aspx Need to know if a material is certified for organic use
Every spring I get questions about residual herbicides. It's usually from growers with furrow irrigation and bad weed pressure. Whether you farm with sprinklers or furrow, Fall is the best time to apply next year's residual materials. These materials need incorporation. Making a late fall application greatly increases the odds that a rain or snowfall will set them in place. Plus you get a jump on any spring weed germination. There's a number of materials available, give us a call this fall to take care of next year's weeds!
It's time once again to mention a program that I'm a big believer in. Fall foliar fertilization. Peach fruits have three fairly discrete stages of growth. The first stage (Stage I) lasts from full bloom until about 50 days after bloom. During this time the fruits grow fairly rapidly and growth is primarily due to cell division. Most of the cell division probably occurs during the first 30 days after bloom, but the length of stage I may be influenced by temperature. There is an increase in both fruit size and fruit dry weight. During stage I, shoot growth begins but there is too little foliage on the tree to support the growth of the fruit and shoots. Therefore much of the carbohydrates for early fruit and shoot growth come from reserves stored in the tree during the previous season. Trees move nutrients from the leaves back into the buds and wood prior to leaf drop. Research in California shows that a foliar spray of urea on peach begins to move into the leaf within two hours, with over 80% of the applied N moving into the leaves within 24 hours. The efficiency of N recovery through a foliar urea application is four-fold greater than through a soil application. (If you're trying to cut back on your annual fertilizer expense this is a program that will get more N in the tree for less dollars!) This nitrogen is mobilized and moved into other plant parts such as shoots and buds within one week. It remains there until spring when it is available for early use during cell division (more cells = larger fruit)! Urea is known to enhance the uptake of other micronutrients when sprayed in combination. Adding zinc, iron, manganese or any other element your tree requires will help boost bud strength and tree health. No detrimental effects have been found on winter hardiness, quite the opposite, research has shown that healthy buds with good nutrient reserves are the most winter hardy. Now is a great window of opportunity to put a bit of fuel back in the tank for next year.
“There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry”
As Always….Please call with any questions!