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fruit bud development

Posted by Michael Phillips 
fruit bud development
May 30, 2014 03:53PM
Bloom is intensely spotty for a number of growers in 2014, including me. This leads to speculation about a few things:

Photosynthesis was limited last June and the first half of July when it rained and rained and rained. This is the post petal fall period when flower cell initiation occurs for the next season, just as the current year's crop is sizing. And thus the "thinning window" of 30 to 40 days to get the job done so as to influence a positive return bloom. Many of us rarely thin enough ... nevertheless I felt okay about the crop load carried into last fall. Some sunshine is needed to boost nutrient and hormone flow towards floral meristems, apparently. We didn't see much sun in northern New England last year during this time. Now many trees have radically limited bloom, on the order of 10%, especially Duchess, William's Pride, Gravenstein, Mac, Sweet Sixteen, Pink Pearl, Fortune, Jonafree, Spy, and our local fav Bonkers (NY 73334-35).

But this isn't true across the board. Other varieties look good, especially younger trees of Honeycrisp, Erwin Bauer, SnowSweet, Cortland, and Gala. And there are rootstock variations too. Macoun on G.30 has decent bloom but on MM.111 hardly a flower. Pears here bloomed in full force ... which may have something to do with being a week plus ahead of apple and thus doing the "meristem thing" in late May when we did indeed have beautiful sunny days. Out in the wild things get especially intriguing. A number of unpruned trees scattered throughout the area show a phenomenal return bloom ... but then again there's those hovering at 10% as well.

I thought when pruning late winter that fruit buds looked smallish but were indeed coming on. There's two variations on how this played out. I see far more flower clusters with just a single or pair of blooms than I ever had. As if the tree funneled its limited energy into making sure at least one flower developed rather than the usual five per cluster for apple. And then there are numerous "spur buds" that simply never popped, which only now are pushing forth leaf growth from the base of the bud. I'd love an explanation of that.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire
Re: fruit bud development
June 03, 2014 04:58PM
Well, here at Westwind in the Hudson Valley, is kind of the same…..ARGH.
Older trees very sporadic bloom, dwarf trees 4th year great bloom, MM111 3rd year good bloom, asian pears 3rd year good bloom. In regards of the older trees, we had a great crop last year and we thinned them by hand, I think we didn't take off enough fruit(as usual), and , I guess, that's the reason for the spotty bloom!

Westwind Orchard
Zone 5b in New York
Re: fruit bud development
June 03, 2014 06:52PM
Here the situation is similar. I think it relates back to the winter of 2011-12 initiating a heavy swing toward biennial bearing. Two of our Sweet 16 trees had heavy crops in 2012 for some reason; little crop last year; now heavy bloom again. Almost all of our other trees are on the opposite schedule.

We tried to thin really heavily last year, but still have very light return bloom on most varieties. Enterprise, Liberty, Pristine, Akane on standard root, Mac, Empire, Roxbury Russet and Idared are fair here. We will leave 2 fruit per cluster and hope for a decent yield. Jonagold, Spy, Baldwin, and most Goldens--zero crop. Melrose and Paulared mostly quite light. Enterprise consistently crops well and grades out best for us. I like the flavor. If only its skin was not so thick!

Timing of thinning is also probably a factor. I'm feeling like the earlier the better, and if we get a heavy bloom next year as I epect, I think I'll try to thin during bloom with bicarbonate.

Hemlock Grove Farm
Zone 5 in New York
Re: fruit bud development
June 04, 2014 07:42PM
I see the same thing others have experienced... a much lighter blossom and now crop load. Some trees are little to none but there a precious few that are loaded! I have a homestead orchard of 50 trees or so in S NH (5cool smiley with nothing commercial at stake. Last year was easily the biggest crop i had. In retrospect, i didn't thin nearly enough. I can remember thinking at harvest time, nature will seek a balance. Then again, i said that in 2012 when a killing freeze in late May wiped me out of apples The most striking thing for me this year is to see that the many wild apple trees that ring our hay fields have at least 2/3 less fruit developing this year compared to last. So, it appears that nature's response to the extreme swings in weather in this period of global weirding is a biennial response.

Hopefully this is not the new normal but if it is, whole paradigms and resulting strategies need to be rethought for people that need to pay bills with their harvest. I think Brian Caldwell is on the right track with his coping strategy.

i wonder what i can do with the free time i will have from not spraying lots of Surround over the next month or so. Possibilities!

Maple Frost Farm
Langdon, NH
Zone 5A
Re: fruit bud development
June 07, 2014 02:51AM
Meanwhile out on the left coast we are having an equally weird but totally different experience. Our trees over-produced in 2012 and then had a very light crop last year, so we were expecting this to be a heavy crop year and it is. However, we did not have very much chilling and of course considerable drought in the winter so the bloom sneaked up on us. We started bloom on about March 10 (several weeks early) and it lasted for almost 6 weeks! At any one day of looking at the bloom, you would think it looks sparse, but by the time the fruit all set we have the largest crop most people can remember.

Not all the orchards around here are the same. Ones that had had better crop load all along are reporting a very light year, and then the very warm early weather created one of the worst fire blight years ever, even on apples which don't usually get it as bad as pears in this area.

We got the massive thinning job done in a relatively timely way, but spent so much money on it that we are on an extremely tight budget until the crop comes in. I'm hoping that by thining early, especially on our worst alternate bearers Empire and Newtown Pippin, we are going to create better fruit buds for next year and alleviate the alternate bearing tendency.

Fruitilicious Farm
Zone 9b in California
Re: fruit bud development
June 07, 2014 06:38AM
Finally, the first flowers on apple trees these last days! Still, only on the varieties that bloom early. Many trees still at pink.
All the opposite from our Californian friends who was many weeks early, here we are a couple of weeks late. And this makes it 3 months later than in Ca!
Seems to be a slightly below average bloom. But it will be next week when most trees will be full bloom that it will be easier to evaluate.

Jolicoeur Orchard
Zone 4 in Quebec
Author, The New Cider Maker's Handbook
Re: fruit bud development
June 08, 2014 07:41PM
I've been noticing the same issues here in eastern Mass. About half or less of the apple trees had what could be thought of as something close to a normal bloom. About a quarter had little or no bloom, and the other quarter have about 30–50% of a normally expected bloom.

As part of my landscaping business, i'm caring for about 160 trees on 10 different people's properties, and most have no record of the varieties (and i'm not proficient enough yet to discern them) so i can't offer varietal correlations.

We did hand thin pretty thoroughly last year (boom crop), and in a fairly timely way.

Pears, peaches, and cherries seem to be acting normally re. bloom and fruit set.

Small Planet Landscaping
east-central Massachusetts
USDA Hardiness Zone 6a (stone's throw to 6b)
Fruit-tree care for hire; approximately 230 trees on 11 private residences
Re: fruit bud development
June 09, 2014 02:31AM
One addition to the observations of this season: Quite a number of varieties are exhibiting sporadic "post bloom" by which I mean odd clusters of flowers well beyond petal fall. Many things are askew. So it is.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire
Re: fruit bud development
June 09, 2014 04:10AM
I don't want to flaunt our good fortune, but here in Nova Scotia, (not that far away from Maine...) we have had a delayed (by about 2 weeks) bloom period, but otherwise entirely normal. Most of my apples were at full bloom about June 5, and I noted today , (June 8), that many are starting petal fall. The only exception is Brown's Thorn, which is only now reaching pink. (This is usual for this cv.) (As an interesting aside, in past years, despite the fact that it blooms long after everything else, it has been just as badly attacked by European Apple Borer as the others. Momma EAS obviously doesn't need a developed flower to lay her eggs in.)

Broomholm Orchard
Zone 5b in Nova Scotia
Re: fruit bud development
June 11, 2014 09:15PM
I have seen a good deal of similar happenings here in Vt. Blooming a good week later than most years, and with a good deal of stragglers...those odd late clusters. Notably it has been the tip blooms as later flowerers, to a very high percentage. Also I have been noting unfilled clusters, some only a single flower.

And the show here has left alot to be desired, even on trees thinned pretty well flowers are lacking. There are varieties that gave little last year, and this year absolutely none to come, while others that cropped well in 2013, loaded to the teeth.

Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Zone 3 in Vermont
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