Dennis Tarry and Robert Woolley of Dave Wilson Nursery report there is little interest from growers in replanting or new plantings of peaches, plums, or nectarines.
Plantings of stone fruit trees have significantly slowed down, several California-based commercial nurseries reported during telephone interviews with the Good Fruit Grower magazine. Nursery representatives cited tough economic times, poor grower returns, uncertain and restricted water supplies, and soaring costs for tree establishment as the reasons for the slowdown.
Dennis Tarry of Dave Wilson Nursery, headquartered in Hickman, California, describes planting of peaches, nectarines, and plums in California as being in a "cautious" mode. Poor grower returns from stone fruit have tempered any enthusiasm in the industry, resulting in a decline in interest in any new plantings. "Water concerns have aggravated what little interest there is in planting," he said. "California growers are facing environmental and economic conditions that are preventing them from doing what they normally do," Tarry said, adding that growers usually have some of their acreage in renewal to keep their varieties current and updated. Instead of replanting new varieties, some growers are planting an annual crop as they watch the market and wait.
Nancy Fowler Johnson of Fowler Nursery also reports a slowdown and softening in stone fruit tree sales. "Stone fruit sales for us have changed significantly, but then we’re not as big a player in stone fruit as some of the other nurseries."
Tom Burchell of Burchell Nursery also reports slowed stone fruit sales and plantings, even in the area of new varieties of peaches, plums, and nectarines. "Input costs keep going up for orchardists," he said, adding that he doesn’t expect to see improvement in tree sales until growers can figure out how to control the rising costs involved with bringing new trees into production.
He notes that some researchers are studying dwarfing rootstocks and tree training methods that reduce the amount of pruning required and use mechanical topping to keep tree height down and lessen the need for ladders. However, most growers have yet to bring down their input costs.
"There’s always an ebb and flow in the nursery business," Tarry said. "We’re all trying to use the magic ball and figure out when things will pick up and what the hot varieties will be for the future."
Although California growers have greatly reduced planting of peaches, nectarines, and plums, the same planting trend does not carry over to cherries.
Tarry has been pleasantly surprised with their cherry sales in 2008—they moved all of their cherry inventory this past year.
Burchell described cherry tree sales as "still positive and going forward," though he noted that sales are not as brisk as several years ago. The Oakdale, California, nursery representative said that acreage expansion in the southern San Joaquin Valley has slowed due to limited water availability. "We’ve even had some tree orders