Fruit Growers Tour Orchard, Assess Threats

5/17/2014 7:00 AM
By Teresa McMinn Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

While orchards across much of the eastern U.S. survived a late blast of cold weather, new threats are on the horizon, said Kari Peter, Penn State tree fruit pathologist.

Peter was at Brecknock Orchard in Mohnton, Pa., last week for a Lancaster/York Fruit Growers twilight meeting.

More than 100 folks attended the event, which included presentations by Penn State Extension on orchard diseases, pests and fruit thinning.

Growers should keep an eye out for fire blight, a contagious disease that attacks peach and apple trees, Peter said.

“It will kill the blossom,” she said. “It can kill the tree.”

Fire blight symptoms include a wilted blossom and possibly “bacterial ooze,” she said.

Streptomycin, an antibiotic applied to the blossom, is typically used to prevent growth of the disease, she said.

Apple scab, caused by a fungus, could also be a problem for growers in the region, she said.

Another fungal disease, powdery mildew, could cause problems if the weather is warm and humid, Peter said.

The disease recently invaded untreated apple trees in Adams County, she said.

Peter recommends growers follow websites, including to track the progress of diseases.

Daryl Martin, who owns Brecknock with his wife, Andrea, led the group on a tour of the family farm, which covers roughly 65 acres, raises peaches and apples, and features a market.

“Our primary focus with the orchard is retail,” Daryl Martin said. “A large portion of that is for pick-your-own.”

Some of Brecknock’s McIntosh apple trees suffered minor damage due to the long, harsh winter, but overall the orchard is healthy, Andrea Martin said.

Throughout Pennsylvania, the condition of fruit trees going into winter had much to do with their survival, said Jim Schupp, tree fruit specialist at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville, Pa.

“Some rows are great,” he said of conditions throughout the state. “Other rows are scary.”

Schupp said some apple trees appear to be damaged due to the last round of freezing temperatures that hit the region, but most early buds seem healthy and able to accept pollen.

“Their buds had started to grow and develop,” he said. “So they were much more vulnerable (and) they just weren’t able to adjust.”

Additionally, some peach trees in the area were damaged over the winter. However, this year’s crop is expected to be full, he said.

That’s because anticipated warm weather should generate the energy needed for area fruit trees to thrive, he said.

“The forecast from here on out looks encouraging,” he said.

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