Good Fruit Grower

December 2013

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Page 67 of 95

hand-thinning to get the required crop loads. The machine is suited to intensive planting systems with single plane canopies. In these circumstances, the economics of mechanical thinning appear to be plausible. PHOTO COURTESY OF BAS VAN DEN ENDE How all this works Size of fruit depends on the total number and size of the individual cells that make up the fruit's flesh. Cells of the flesh begin to form when the flower is fertilized, and the cells continue to divide. This period of cell division continues until the stone starts to harden. After cell division, cells increase in size by filling up with water and sugar (period of cell enlargement) until the fruit is harvested. Final size of fruit is determined in about the first 30 days after full bloom, that is, during cell division. Strong competition between flowers, and also between flowers and young emerging shoots and leaves, can slow down cell division and lead to small fruit. There is no way that you can increase the number of cells once cell division has ended and cell enlargement has started. To increase the number of cells, your trees must be in a good nutritional condition. Then you must fine-tune to get large fruit. In many ways, it is true to say that next year's crop has already started to grow this season. This means that you must grow laterals this season to get a crop next year. To grow the sizes of peaches and nectarines that the market wants, you must also be committed to detail throughout the year, because the crop load and size of fruit depend on many factors that start with proper management and health of trees, frost control, and ultimately thinning of flowers and fruit. Thinning flowers takes some practice and good supervision, but commercial experience in Australia has shown that it is worthwhile if you want to stay in the business of growing fruit of good size and high quality. • Hand-thinning of peach and nectarine trees can be more profitable than thinning fruit. LESS THAN Hammer-tough features can include: 68 DECEMBER 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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