Thursday, May 8, 2008

Weak Peach Trees

In many of the commercial peach orchards this year we are seeing trees that look very weak. The limb on top is normal growth while the limb on bottom looks stunted. There is some concern that these trees may not be able to ripen the crop and some trees may die.

There are a couple of explanations for the weak appearance. First, the trees have set a tremendous crop and are shifting most of their energy in maintaining the fruit. Second, due to the extremely dry weather last year, the root system of the tree may not have been able to grow during the fall and the tree is operating on a smaller root system. A combination of these two factors may also be causing the problem.

Some growers are tempted to put out more nitrogen in order to perk the trees up. However this may cause more problems by spurring the tree to put on excessive growth, resulting in excessive vigor and poor fruit quality. You might also consider the high price of fertilizer when making the decision.

Instead of adding more fertilizer, you might want to consider thinning the excessive fruit off as quickly as possible. The longer the fruit stays on the tree the more it puts a drain on the trees resources. Give the tree a couple of weeks after thinning to see how it responds, and if a light fertilizer application is needed.