Most of us are quite content to ignore our fruit plantings during the winter. At least I know I am guilty of that. Winter brings about other challenges for me — end of year reporting, conferences to attend, data to analyze, papers to write, etc. I know that everyone has their own stuff to deal with too making it difficult to keep your mind on something that isn’t growing (or at least appears that way). Of course there are a myriad of things that could be done to improve the planting, of which pruning and sanitation are some of the most important. However, I believe the most important thing to do during the time when it is too cold to get outside and you would rather bundle up in a blanket next to a warm fire is to learn. Education is a never-ending process. New things are discovered every year about fruiting crops. New pests, new varieties, new methods of management, etc. The great thing is that you no longer need to drive somewhere during sleet, snow, or icy drizzle to get to a meeting. Extension is starting to embrace online education techniques like webinars and blogs to keep clientele apprised of new discoveries. I would also encourage social media interaction. There are lots of Extension specialists and agents on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. These are all platforms to interact with us. If you don’t know how, just ask and any of us would be happy to help you learn these new things. The world is digital and not going back. If we can find common ground with our learning environments we can all be so much better informed. So, what to do during this winter? Try something new and learn, learn, learn.
This year I have received several calls wondering why certain trees and vines produced little or no fruit this year. It is a fair question — what would cause this problem? Assuming there really was no fruit or the fruit failed to develop properly (rather than a disease issue) the answer points to pollination. Will all the rain and cool temperatures we had this spring, conditions were poor for pollination in some crops in some locations. Some crops that I have seen with poor or no crop this year are pears, peaches, pecans, and muscadines. I’m sure there are plenty of others as well. Rain and cool weather deters pollinators from visiting open flowers. Rain also dampens the pollen itself and makes it so that it cannot readily be dispersed. Timing is the critical thing, as one cultivar may have a full crop and another nothing. It could even vary from plant to plant of the same cultivar, and also from field to field (i.e. a neighbor might have a good crop whereas you have little or nothing). So the interaction of rain and flower opening is where things can go wrong. Of course other things can reduce pollination (lack of pollinator insects, lack of pollinizer trees, disease, frost, drought, excess heat and humidity, etc.) but this year I put my money behind the wet and cool conditions.
It is not just trees that had a hard time this year.
Some cultivars were impacted but were able to set some fruit, although it will not be a full harvest by any means.
Is there an upside to not having much fruit this year? Well, bud fruitfulness should be increased for next year, especially in the pecan trees. So, just like the mantra of the Chicago Cubs — There’s always next year!
Popcorn disease of mulberry is caused by a fungus (Ciboria carunculoides). It occurs in late spring and early summer. The white mulberries are more susceptible to this disease. The disease manifests on the developing carpels and looks like popcorn kernels. It is a serious disease if the tree is being cropped for commercial purposes; however, it does no harm to the overall health of the trees, thus homeowners do not need to worry (if the tree is only used for ornamental or shade purposes). So, if this disease does occur what can be done to stop it? Sanitation is a good first step — clean up any infected material and remove it from the area where the tree is growing. There is very little else a homeowner can feasibly do to reduce the disease. Spraying the tree with Bordeaux mixture may help too, but getting coverage over the entire tree may be problematic. As with many fungal diseases, the severity will depend on the environmental conditions from year to year. Some years will be worse than others.
If you wish to read more on this particular disease, Texas A&M has a good, short fact sheet on it here.
The list below illustrates the types of pathogens/problems found on fruit plants submitted to the Mississippi State University plant diagnostic lab in 2014. The general format of the list shows the common name for the disease, followed by the scientific name of the pathogen, followed by a number in parentheses that indicates the number of times this problem was diagnosed in the lab.
Apple (Malus x domestica)
• Apple Scab suspected (Venturia inaequalis) (1)
• Cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniper-virginianae) (1)
• Diplodia canker (Diplodia mutila) (1)
• Fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) (1)
• Flyspeck (Schizothyrium pomi) (1)
• Phoma Leaf spot (Phoma sp.) (1)
• Russetting (Abiotic) (1)
• Sooty Blotch (Gloeodes pomigena) (1)
• Undetermined (mummified fruit ) (1)
Blackberry (Rubus sp.) ‘Arapaho’
• Abiotic (Freeze damage) (4)
• Blackberry Rust (Phragmidium violaceum) (1)
• Cane blight (Coniothyrium fuckelii) (1)
Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)
• Abiotic (Cold injury) (1)
• Abiotic (Possibly Glyphosate) (1)
• Leaf spot (Cercospora rubi) (1)
• Leaf spot (Septoria sp.) (1)
• Fruit Spot (Exobasdium maculosum (1)
• Twig Blight ( Fusicoccum sp.) (1)
Cherry (Prunus sp.)
• Insufficient sample (Vascular disruption suspected) (1)
Fig, Common (Ficus carica)
• Diplodia canker (Diplodia sp.) (1)
• Rust (Cerotelium fici) (1)
• Undetermined fruit rot (1)
Fruit Trees (Prunus sp.)
• Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) (1)
Grape (Vitis vinifera)
• Abiotic (Magnesium deficiency suspected) (1)
• Abiotic (Freeze injury suspected) (2)
• Black Rot (Guignardia bidwellii / Phyllosticta ampelicida) (2)
Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
• Borers suspected (1)
Jujube (Ziziphus jujube)
• Leaf spot (Cercospora sp.) (1)
• Fruit injury undetermined (1)
Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis)
• Insect infestation (1)
• Sooty mold (1)
Peach (Prunus persica)
• Brown fruit rot (Moilinia fructicola) (2)
• Peach leaf curl (Taphrina deformans) (1)
• Root rot (Armillaria sp.) (1)
• San Jose Scale (Quadraspidiotus perniciosus) (1)
Pear (Pyrus sp.)
• Abiotic (Chemical root injury suspected) (1)
• Fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) (2)
• Phomopsis Twig Blight (Phomopsis sp.) (1)
• Quince rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes) (1)
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
• Abiotic (Possible Nitrogen Burn or nutritional issue) (1)
• Animal injury suspected (1)
• No pathogens (1)
• Pecan phylloxera (Phylloxera devastratrix) (2)
Plum (Prunus sp.)
• Abiotic (Sunscald suspected) (1)
• Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) (1)
Plum (Prunus spp.) ‘Shiro’
• Bacterial spot (Xanthomonas campestris pv. pruni) (2)
• Brown rot (Monilinia fructicola) (1)
• Plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) (1)
• Scale insect (1)
Satsuma (Citrus reticulata)
• Root/Stem injury suspected (1)
See the entire list here: http://msucares.com/lab/2014list.pdf
Last week, I gave a presentation on Fruit Crops for your Yard at the MSU Fall Flower and Garden Fest that was held in Crystal Springs. This is a big event, with over 5,000 attendees each year. You can find more info on this event at this link: Fall Flower and Garden Fest
As for my participation, I presented on some of the common fruit crops that are grown in Mississippi. Unfortunately, the time is short (45 minutes) and I can’t go into all the details I wish I could. But I tried to give the basics on several different popular fruit crops. To access the PDF version of the presentation, click below:
I have previously wrote on the topic of chill hours, but I also get a lot of requests for what the accumulated hours are for the season. This year I will be posting them on this site on the page entitled Chill Hours (on the right hand side of your screen). By visiting this page, you will be able to keep up to date on the accumulated chill hours as reported by locations in five counties in Mississippi — Copiah, George, Jones, Lee, and Wayne. The recordings are reported by volunteers, so they may or may not be available for each week. In the future I hope to put together data from previous years (at least those I have) and also make them available on the site.
As of today, the first posting is up. Each recording season runs from October 1 to April 1 of the following year.
Yesterday I gave a presentation on “Best Fruit Crops for Mississippi Farmers’ Markets”. It was part of the “Microfarming – Growing for Farmers’ Markets” workshop put on by Dr. Rick Snyder and others. You can see more info on the workshop as well as links to other information related to Farmers’ Markets here: http://farmersmarkets.msstate.edu/conference/.
The full presentation can be accessed here as a PDF file: Fruit Crops for MS Farmers Markets
This year has been active for pear rust development. This disease (Gymnosporangium spp.) requires two host to complete its life cycle — a pear and a juniper. There are several related species of this disease that also cause Cedar Apple Rust, Pear Trellis Rust, Cedar Quince Rust, and others. As you can see in the photo below, orange growth occurs on the leaves and fruit. Later in the summer spores are released and blown by wind to the nearest juniper host. On junipers the disease appears as a gelatinous mass on the branches that eventually hardens to a brownish colored gall.
Photo courtesy of Allan Whitehead, MSU-ES
What to do about this disease? Sanitation is very important. Clean up all infected leaves, fruit, and other plant parts and dispose of them away from the orchard area. Prune out infected tissue on both pears and junipers. Some pears and junipers are resistant to this disease, so choose those varieties if considering a new planting. The only sure way to eliminate the disease is to get rid of one of the hosts — either the pear or the juniper. Approved fungicides may help, but it will be a constant battle and timing of application will be critically important.
Some good links on rust diseases that show more photos and suggestions on control:
On March 21, I will be at this field day to talk about fruit varieties and site selection for fruit crops. To get more info, read below and download the pdf at the link. Once the field day is over I will post my presentation on this blog.
The Alliance for Sustainable Agricultural Production is hosting a field day on Friday, March 21, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at their demonstration farm near Goodman, MS in Holmes County. This field day will feature topics on plastic mulching laying and irrigation and construction and production in high tunnels.
Please see the attached flyer for more information and a list of remaining field days for 2014. These monthly “field days” are designed to provide hands-on/on-farm learning opportunities. The basic idea is to cover issues and topics that you should be dealing with at that particular time. The cost for this event is free, but everyone is asked to pre-register; to RSVP for the March 21st workshop please contact Keith Benson at 601-988-4999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week I was in Verona and gave a talk on Fruit Crops for North Mississippi at the Northern Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association annual conference. The weather was cold, but the crowd inside was good. Lots of interest and excitement about all kinds of fruit and vegetable related topics. Below is a photo of Dr. Blake Layton, MSU Extension Entomologist, addressing the crowd.
Although I didn’t get a photo with me speaking (should I have done a selfie?) my presentation is available for download at the link below as a PDF.
UPDATE: After posting this I was chastised by Dr. John Clark at the University of Arkansas for not listing the UA peach and nectarine varieties. My reply was that they were untested in N. MS so I didn’t know for sure how they would perform. He thought they would do well in that area. So, this link: http://www.aragriculture.org/horticulture/fruits_nuts/nectarine_peach/default.htm will describe them and offer nurseries where to obtain them.