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Orchard Operations – Pruning to Induce Early Bearing in Orchards

The Issue

Of the 58,000 acres of fruit trees in Tulare County, more than 47,000 acres are fresh-shipping peaches, plums and nectarines. These orchards are commonly replaced every 8 to 12 years as the varieties become obsolete. Industry observers suggest that this figure has recently fallen to 7 to 9 years of productive orchard life. Because of this short potential market life, it is extremely important for peach and nectarine orchards to reach full production as quickly as possible.

What Has ANR Done?

Our research results from four sets of trials and demonstrations have shown that two methods can help to induce early production. For peaches and nectarines, reduced pruning during the first three growing seasons is practical and effective. For plums, which also can benefit from earlier production, reduced pruning combined with small metal anchors and twine to tie limbs into a specific orientation are more suitable. We worked closely with about six influential growers noted for their growing expertise and strategically located throughout the growing area. Demonstration blocks were set up in their orchards to compare these systems side by side with current pruning system. Trees were brought into bearing two to three years sooner than with conventional pruning techniques. In all cases the growers became enthusiastic supporters of the reduced pruning method. The concept also has been disseminated through the trade press and other media.

The Payoff

These techniques advance bearing by 1-3 years.

A verbal survey of growers in the Tulare County area indicates that this technology is now being used by more than 45 growers on a full-scale basis on more than 3,000 acres of trees. Many other local growers are trying the concept on at least a portion of their orchards. Additionally, many growers in other parts of California are using these techniques. Assuming that orchard life before varietal obsolescence is roughly 10-12 years, these techniques have increased productive orchard life by at least 10 to 25%, thereby placing money directly in the growers’ pockets.


Supporting Unit: Tulare County

Kevin Day
Farm Advisor
Phone: (559) 685-3309 Ext. 211
E-mail: krday@ucdavis.edu