Food Adventures with Connie

Archive for the category “orchard”

Peach Leaf Curl

We are seeing quite a bit of peach leaf curl in Southeast Nebraska.  Peach leaf curl is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans.  This fungal disease is one of the most common diseases in the home orchard and can affect the blossoms, fruit, leaves, and shoots of peaches and nectarines.  (Cherries have a similar leaf curl diseases caused by T. cerasi.)  Peach leaf curl is more severe following cool, wet springs; temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees F are ideal for infection.

peach-leaf-curl

The primary symptom is a thickened, puckered area on leaves which will turn yellow to red or purple with the loss of chlorophyll.  These leaves may prematurely drop, weakening the tree and making it more susceptible to other diseases, pests, and cold injury. The disease can also result in reduced fruit set, size, and quality.

A single fungicide spray applied while trees are still dormant (just prior to bud swell), thoroughly covering all branches, shoots, and buds will control peach leaf curl.  Effective controls include Bravo, Ziram, and copper compounds.  See the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide for details.

At this time of year, most infection has already occurred, and fungicide sprays are relatively ineffective.  Fruit on defoliated trees should be thinned to reduce stress and improve tree survival.

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The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Soil Sampling for Home Fruit and Vegetable Production

Whether establishing a new garden or orchard or managing an existing planting, submitting a soil sample for analysis is an important step in sustainable food production.  The results you obtain from this test will let you know if your soil has an appropriate pH for the crop you want to grow and offer recommendations of amendments necessary for optimal plant growth; they will also let you know if you can cut back on your fertilizer applications which will save you money and may result in greater yield.

handful-of-garden-soil

Who?

Anyone growing fruits or vegetables should collect and submit a soil sample for testing every three to five years, more often if changing production systems or trying to identify the cause of poor plant growth and production.

What?

A soil sample is a composite mixture of multiple sub-samples (10 to 15 should be sufficient for most home plantings).  If your planting contains more than one soil type (different texture, color, drainage, etc.), then you should collect a separate sample of each.

Where?

Sub-samples should be collected randomly across the production area, to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.  In perennial tree and vine crops you may want to collect a second sample as deep as 24 inches if you suspect severe subsoil problems; the root systems of these plants may extend 36 inches or more into the soil.  Keep in mind however that amendments primarily affect just the upper soil layer; nutrients like phosphorus and potassium and amendments for adjusting pH like lime are not very mobile in the soil.  Incorporating these amendments deeper in the soil is not an option for perennial plants because you want to avoid damaging their root systems.

When?

A soil sample can be taken any time the soil is not frozen.  It is best to submit samples in the fall or early spring so you have time to apply any necessary amendments before or early in the next growing season.  Soil test values will vary by season; you will want to collect samples in subsequent years during the same season so results and recommendations can be compared.

For best results, collect samples when the soil is relatively dry rather than after a rain event or irrigation.

Why?

Soil pH and nutrient content have a direct effect on the health and productivity of fruit and vegetable plants.  Submitting soil samples for testing will provide you with recommendations for amendments that can improve your soil quality.

Your results may indicate that you have been applying too much of certain nutrients.  For example, excessive nitrogen in the soil will cause your plants to become excessively vegetative (lush green growth) with a negative effect on fruit yield and quality.  Knowing this will allow you to reduce your fertilizer inputs, and therefore your annual input costs.

How?

soil-probes

Three different soil probes capable of sampling to a depth of 8 inches.

Use a soil probe, auger, spade, or shovel to collect sub-samples from 10 to 15 points across your production area.  Make sure you sample from where the plant root systems are or will be (rather than from walkways, for example).  Mix the sub-samples together in a clean plastic bucket, removing any large stones, vegetation, or other foreign material.  You’ll need about two cups of soil to fill the lab-provided sample container.

soil-auger-peach

Soil sampling in a peach planting using an auger. Samples should be collected where the plant’s roots are located, here at the peach tree’s dripline.

Several labs in Nebraska offer soil testing.  Midwest Laboratories in Omaha and AgSource in Lincoln are two options.  Their websites contain information about requesting a soil sample test kit, which parameters they test for, and when you can expect to receive your results.  The test will cost approximately $25 per sample.

Next Steps

Your soil test results will contain recommendations for soil amendments based on the garden or orchard crops you indicate on the sample submission form.  If you have questions about interpreting your test results or which soil amendments will best meet the needs of your site and production system, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

Most fruit and vegetable plants prefer an acidic soil pH.  If your test results indicate that the soil’s pH is too high, elemental sulfur can be used to lower it.  Just keep in mind that Nebraska’s clay soils have a high buffering capacity which means that their pH will immediately begin to rise after you add sulfur.  To maintain the desired pH you may need to add sulfur every year or two.

For more information about managing soil and nutrients for vegetable production check out UNL’s Fertilizers for Vegetables in Home Gardens. The Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide is an excellent source of information about fruit production, including recommended fertilizer rates.

Handful of garden soil photo via Jing, https://pixabay.com/en/soil-hand-farm-garden-fertilizer-766281/, CC0 Public Domain.

Producer Interview: In the Orchard with Tyler Vock

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tyler Vock, Orchard Manager at Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard north of Nebraska City, Nebraska to learn more about the operation and get his advice for beginning farmers considering fruit production.

Q1: How many acres is this farm?
A1: 98 total.

Q2: Which crops do you grow here?
A2: We grow apples, cherries, peaches, strawberries, vegetables, pears, plums, pumpkins, and sweet corn.

Q3: What is your main crop and why?
A3: Apples – it’s what we’re known for at Kimmel Orchard. About half of the total acres here are planted in apples.

Q4: You grow multiple apple varieties. Can you share which ones are your favorites?
A4: My favorites are Honeycrisp, Jonathan, and Pink Lady. The Honeycrisp are a sweet apple; they’re definitely the most popular apple that we grow here. I like the Jonathans because they’re tart. And I like the Pink Lady apples because they’re the last apple of the year so that means we’re almost done for the season.

high-density apple trees on a trellis

High-density tall spindle apple trees at        Kimmel Orchard

Q5: I noticed that you have a portion of the orchard trained to a trellis. What are the benefits of this production system?
A5: The trellis system that we’re doing now is a new way to grow apple trees called tall spindle or high-density planting. It’s a good way to boost early production in apple trees and make your money back faster. You plant the trees three-feet apart with twelve foot rows in between. The maximum height these trees will grow is nine to ten feet. What you really want is early fruit production. They start producing in the second year and then by year five you can harvest about a thousand bushels per acre. If you can accomplish that you’ll make your money back a little bit faster and it’s a more profitable system. Plus I think it’s the best way to make sure that all guests, from the first guest in September to the last guest in October, have a chance to get apples. For me, I think that it’s an easier system than the old trees. Pruning in the winter is a lot easier – you can zip right through those lines, not spending a lot of time on one tree. And if you have a person on each side of the row it seems like it goes really fast. It’s a little bit more work to get them started, but if you do it right it’s an awesome system.

Q6: Are there any differences between now and when you started managing the orchard three years ago?
A6: For me it’s the knowledge that comes with it, so things are easier for me now. When I started I was a row crop kid, born and raised in Nebraska City; I liked to work with cattle. So when I started here it was a pretty steep learning curve. You learn something new every day and I feel that once you know what you know everything gets a little easier here. So I would say the confidence in growing everything just within three years of working here.

Q7: So most of what you know about orchard management you learned on-the-job?
A7: Yes, that, and reading a lot of research papers on how to get everything going. For the most part I learned hands-on – that’s the best way to learn, right?

Q8: What has been your greatest challenge as an orchard manager?
A8: Right now it’s managing fire blight in the area. It’s a bacterium that gets into the trees and if you’re not careful with it, it can really start to harm the orchard. So getting that figured out and working with the spray schedule in general to make sure fungi aren’t becoming a problem, and scouting for pests. It’s difficult, but that’s what needs to be done to make high quality fruit.

Q9: Do you have any projects planned that we should keep a lookout for in the future?
A9: We’re growing sweet corn this year, so that’s one thing that’s different. In about five years we will be replanting our eight acres which is the biggest block of trees that we have. We’ll be going from the old production system to all the trees being trained to the tall spindle system. So instead of 26 rows of trees there will be 47 and instead of 1000 trees we’ll have 9100 trees in there. I still get questions all the time from people that we show this tall spindle model to; they can’t believe that you can grow apple trees that close to each other. But once you explain to them the purpose of it, they get it.

Q10: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about fruit production at Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard?
A10: It’s a lot of hard work but at the end of the year when you get to see families come out and spend the day picking… It makes it all worth a full year of work seeing people out here having fun and getting compliments on the quality of fruit. That’s the best thing about working here.

Q11: What advice do you have for young people thinking about going into fruit production?
A11: Just do your research. If you’re going to choose a tall spindle don’t take any shortcuts, put the work in; if you do it right it’s going to be very profitable for you. And it will be pretty fun too. Every year a new development happens so it’s not like a repetitive job; you’re always doing something different. And if you like being outdoors, I’d say go for it.

For more information on high-density apple plantings:
http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/high-density-apple-orchard-management/
http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/high-density-apple-orchard-management-techniques/

For more information on fire blight:
http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6020
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/pdf/HYG_3002_08.pdf

And for more information on Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard and upcoming events, visit http://www.kimmelorchard.org/ and follow their blog at https://kimmelorchard.wordpress.com/.

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