After planting two rootstock trials in cooperation with Dr. Tom Beckman (USDA-ARS Stone Fruit/Rootstock Breeder) and wanting to stay longer in Fort Myers and in Vero Beach this past week/weekend, I have decided I love Florida. I know everyone that has an investment in UF/IFAS and particularly in extension might want to hear that because barring any major life event, there will not be turnover in the stone fruit extension specialist position (unless I do something really crazy!) It might take me a while to fully invest in Gator Football, but I take comfort that my Spartans are headed to the Rose Bowl.
In case you weren’t able to attend, I led a winter pruning workshop in Fort Pierce this past Monday, and it was great. My technician, Matt Ross and Dr. Chaparro’s tech, Mark Gal had done such a great job on summer pruning that there were few cuts to make on our two year old trees, and it was perfect for demonstration. It was good to see differences in the varieties, such as ‘UFBest’ (which is blooming now; and has moderate vigor), and ‘UFSun’ (which is very vigorous) and talk about how to prune each one differently especially when considering potential damage from unforeseen frost events in the future.
We also talked about the impact of heading cuts vs. thinning cuts and how a peach tree might respond, depending upon whether these were done during the winter or summer pruning efforts. Multiple thinning cuts in the summer time period may result in some thick wood that needs to be pruned out during the winter; however multiple heading cuts in the summer might result in the production of multiple shoots that are undersized for fruit production the following year.
I also spoke about the 2013 year in review and some of the upcoming challenges that we will be facing in the 2014 year, provided we stay on the same track as we have been in regards to temperatures. Some growers are experimenting with hydrogen cyanamide, and I think all of us, scientists and growers alike are interested to see how it all works out, with less than 10 chill units acquired throughout all of south central Florida. Much of the former research on this product has indicated that peach trees respond best when some chill units are received, but we have not had adequate chill in the past two years. See link for HC studies in Alabama: http://www.aces.edu/dept/peaches/peachdormex.html.
As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. I’ll probably have an early spring visit scheduled for Central Florida in February/March, and then another in the summer with a third in the fall, so that I can get around to various orchards and meet with extension agents around the state. I hope to see you then!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
- Future ‘peachy’ as new crop makes inroads into Florida citrus groves
- Peaches catch on as citrus growers look for alternatives