Eastern growers without fruit look to cut some costs
Damage to the eastern United States fruit crop varies in the usual ways—by location and site quality, microclimate variations, tree size, fruit species, and bloom dates of different varieties.
Some growers will give up on having any fruit at all and will manage the trees and the foliage. Some growers will have to choose whether to manage what fruit is left or forget about it. Other growers will apply thinners, some because the frosts missed them and they have too many fruits left. There are some of those. Others will choose to remove what few are left before rots and plum curculio, codling moths, and oriental fruit moths infest them.
Crops in some orchards are obviously lost, and growers have already shifted to maintenance pesticide and fertility programs. Some will use Apogee to contain vigor. Others are waiting to see how much fruit will remain. Bloom in apples has been drawn out by the cool April, and growers don’t yet know how many will pollinate, how many will drop, how many will be frost-scarred—and how many fruits they need to have to continue to manage the crop. If apples are scarce, each one will be worth more.
If growers choose to manage remaining fruit, they will need to continue their crop protection program as if there is a full crop. With fewer fruit, pressure from codling moths, oriental fruit moths, cherry fruit flies, and plum curculio can be more intense.
If they choose to abandon the crop, they can cut certain parts of the program and save some money. But they need to continue some practices, and they may need to completely defruit trees if they don’t intend to spray them.
Here are some things to consider, advise extension fruit educators Bill Shane, Mark Longstroth, and Nikki Rothwell in Michigan and Debbie Breth in New York, and other extension educators.
—Cut the nitrogen and potassium fertility program. Chances are, however, fertilizer applications were already made this spring.
—Keep an eye out for San Jose scale, mites, and obliquebanded leafrollers, insects that damage foliage.
—Continue trunk sprays to protect peaches and cherries from borers.
—Continue fungicide programs to control apple scab, cherry leaf spot, and black knot on plums.
—Since they won’t be concerned about fruit finish or preharvest intervals, growers can shift to cheaper fungicides such as lime sulfur and copper.
—Tree vigor on apple trees without apples may need to be contained using Apogee or root pruning.
—Gibberellic acid is necessary this season to ensure that tart cherry trees will not overset next year.
—Weed control can be minimized, but not eliminated, as trees without fruit will require less water.