blossom reversal
June 22, 2016 08:26AM
Last season's heavy crop was certainly one to remember, and with that comes the expectation of limited return bloom the next year. That's the case with the Sweet Sixteen and a few other varieties but on the whole there was decent bloom orchard-wide here in northern New Hampshire this spring. And the pollination weather was divine as witnessed by plenty of bumblebees and blue orchard bees leading the charge. Josh Karp across the river in Vermont reported "tons of honeybees" working the bloom in his trees. Nevertheless, there's very poor fruit set on a number of varieties in both orchards. Telling you that there's no need to thin is an understatement.

Which leads me to start this conversation about blossom strength and other nuanced factors that make a crop happen. The bloom period was relatively fast since it was rather warm. Josh wonders if, due to the heat, the pollen was viable for only a very short period of time (as phenology raced forward)...and the bees couldn't get to all the flowers in time. It's very unlikely either of us experienced bud damage during one of the spring freeze events as the trees didn't commit up this way until the proper time. It's almost like the trees put out a bunch of blossoms and then just changed their mind . . .

Nutrients come into play here. Still, a long history of soil investment coupled with the fact that this is the year I used the MicroPak formulation from Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA) at pink, petal fall, and first cover makes me think those bases are covered. MicroPak contains boron, zinc, manganese, copper, cobalt, molybdenum, and sulfur in a form which can be readily absorbed by plants. This was applied with the holistic core recipe, which also includes nutrient support in the form of seaweed and fatty acids.

My thoughts fall more along the lines that this year's bloom was already tired out of the starting gate. Last year, with perfect conditions and the commitment of a bumper crop, these exceedingly healthy trees found enough energy for flower bud formation but not quite the full monty to carry through and become pollinated. This played out differently several years back when the return bloom after a heavy-cropping year came in "blossom clusters" with only one or two flowers per cluster (as opposed to the normal five). Questions must be asked. Was it the warm weather this season, as Josh thinks? Was it the abundance of last season and thus subdued energy this season? I don't know but would sure love to hear some speculation and insights from others about this blossom reversal!

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire
Re: blossom reversal
June 27, 2016 06:45PM
Coming into this season, I already knew we were going to have a very light crop, after last year heavy crop...witness Mike Biltonen who kept saying you'll see.....yes I did see.... but I don't think flowers aborted because of last season heavy crop.
My two cents ....
We had -17 on Valentines day and 0 and 9 degrees on the two freeze event nights. After these events I thought I wasn't going to see any flowers, instead our Golden Delicious, Idareds and Crimson Crisp were in FULL boom, yes FULL bloom. Wild and honeybees, in my opinion, had a good chance to do what they do best but I was very surprised and at the same time very proud of the resilience of our trees but still skeptical. Well.... 80% of those flowers aborted and I personally think the reason is all on the very low temps we had and the poor site my orchard sits on.....
Re: blossom reversal
June 28, 2016 05:57AM
That deep cold in mid-March and again in early April struck you guys across New York much more than further north in that our buds were not as far along. Ironically, we didn't get as cold either. I started the degree day countdown for scab on April 21 when the first smile of green revealed itself in MacIntosh buds. I'll bet that's at several weeks later than what you saw in Accord. Ironically, I have a good plum set two years in a row so the earlier fruit buds certainly weren't damaged. Pears are pretty good too considering the sparser bloom. Pie cherries are amazing.

I agree that cold damage to apple buds can be a definite factor but I'm fairly confident we can rule that out as the main reason up here. Probably a little of this, a little of that . . . plus who knows what I did in a past life!

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/08/2016 08:09AM by Michael Phillips.
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