Texas Peach Handbook
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
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Chapter 1: Planning a Peach Orchard
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When contemplating planting a peach orchard, it is important first to address the question of what one is going to do with the fruit. This may sound obvious, but in many ways, growing the fruit can be the easy part. More than a few growers have struggled to establish an orchard and produce a first crop, only to find themselves with ripe fruit and no market for their crop. Peaches are extremely perishable, and marketing arrangements should be made far in advance of your first harvest.
Chapter 2: Site Selection
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Selecting a suitable site for an orchard can provide the greatest chance of economic success. Prospective commercial growers should resist making a site decision based solely on the fact that the land is already owned. If appropriate features are not present, the orchard may be unduly subject to low vigor, soil-borne pathogens, and increased risk of spring frost. It may be more economical to buy new land rather than invest $3,500 per acre and three to four years of ...
Chapter 3: Site Preparation
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Once a site has been chosen, careful plans should be made to prepare the land before planting to avoid as many potential problems as possible. This preparation should begin the year before planting to allow adequate time for each procedure. Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in West Virginia, as well as observations here in Texas, indicate that peach trees grow faster when planted on sites that have been in cover crops for one season or several before planting.
Chapter 4: Chilling, Dormancy, Hardiness, and Phenology of Bloom
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Nature provides internal mechanisms for deciduous trees to prepare for and survive winter and to delay bloom so that there is a greater chance of successful reproduction. Understanding these phenomena and managing orchards with this in mind can improve peach tree fruitfulness and tree health, increasing the productive life span of your orchard.
Chapter 5: Cultivar and Rootstock Recommendations for Texas Peach Growers
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Commercial peach production has been important in Texas since the 1890s. Peach cultivars are generally self-fruitful and generally do not need other varieties as pollenizers (sources of pollen). To be successful choices for a given location, varieties should produce a reliable crop of fruit that is firm and has commercially acceptable size, an attractive blush, and good eating quality. Growers typically choose a number of varieties that ripen in sequence so that fruit is available for an extended period over the course of the season.
Chapter 6: Peach Tree Pruning and Training
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Peach trees require annual dormant pruning in order to remain healthy and productive. Before we explore how we prune trees, it is important first to examine the growth cycle of these trees and understand why we prune peach trees. Peach fruit are borne only on the previous season’s growth. So, for all practical purposes, each year we are growing two crops: the fruit that are being produced that season, and the wood that will be responsible for the next year’s crop. It is important that as growers, we learn to strike a balance with our trees between fruit production and vegetative vigor. Too much of either is undesirable and leads to poor tree health and a lack of productivity.
Chapter 7: Water Management
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One of the most critical aspects of peach culture, be it one tree or several acres of trees, is water management. Our philosophy has always been that one has to get the water right in order to be successful. Water is the medium for all the physiological processes of the plant and hence is critical not only for optimum but also for maximum growth. Times when water is most critical to the plant include planting, young tree growth, mature tree bud break and bloom, fruit sizing and crop set for the next year, fruit maturation, and the fall food storage time for the tree.
Chapter 8: Peach Orchard Floor Management
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Weed competition is a leading cause for failure of young peach orchards. Up to 90 percent of the tree roots are in the top 2 feet of soil, and weeds growing in the root area of the tree are in direct competition with the tree for water and nutrients. In young orchards, uncontrolled weed height also results in competition for sunlight. Peach trees are poor competitors, and the grower’s ability to manage competing vegetation has a tremendous impact on the success of the orchard. Growers should avoid the temptation of mowing only the row centers, or aisles, and ignoring weed growth down the tree row underneath the trees.
Chapter 9: Peach Tree Nutrition and Orchard Fertilization
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In order to maintain healthy, productive trees, the fertility of peach trees must be kept at optimal levels. The diversity of soils and climates in Texas makes it impossible to provide a blanket recommendation for fertilization from one end of the state to the other. For this reason, we must rely on soil and leaf tissue samples in order to discern the most cost-effective amount of nutrients to be applied on an annual basis. The timing and placement of fertilizer also affects tree growth and productivity.
Chapter 10: Peach Diseases
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Peach orchards are subject to numerous disease organisms that can decay fruit or cause defoliation or other serious injury to all or parts of trees. In our climate, even in drier parts of the state, organic production of peaches is unprofitable commercially. Diseases of foliage and fruit are generally driven by rainfall and humidity and are therefore more problematic in wetter parts of the state. This chapter is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion of disease biology and epidemiology but merely an overview of some of the more problematic diseases across the region.
Chapter 11: Insects
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Numerous insects can hinder both tree life and fruit quality. Fortunately, only a few pose a serious threat to the trees and fruit in most years. The number one insect responsible for peach tree mortality is scale, followed by greater peach tree borer and lesser peach tree borer. Fruit pests include the stinkbug complex, plum curculio, and oriental fruit moth. Luckily many areas of Texas do not have to deal with curculio, and borers do not occur in the Texas Hill Country. Mites, thrips, and grasshoppers can be an issue in some years.
Chapter 12: Crop Control
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As with all fruit crops, peach fruit forms as the result of the pollination of flowers. Peach trees bear “perfect” flowers, meaning that when fully and normally differentiated, the flowers have both male and female parts. The male portion of the flower is known as the stamen. It is made up of anthers, which produce and shed pollen, and filaments, which support and hold the anthers above the female part of the flower. Pollen is shed both before and after flowers open.
Chapter 13: Harvesting and Handling
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The harvest of a peach crop is the culmination of years of work and many ups and downs. Weather extremes have done nothing but make the experience worse. Just when you thought you had it figured out, the temperatures dropped to 25�F on April 8 or rocks fell out of the sky on May 18, which either reduced your crop to nothing or made it very hard to sell. Harvest can be a bittersweet ending to a job best described as hard work. Depending on the size of your operation, whether one tree or several hundred, you need to know what you are going to do with the fruit and move it to its final destination, be it sell it or smell it!
Chapter 14: Marketing
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The fact that we live in a global economy is nowhere more evident than in the produce section of a grocery store. Like many other kinds of fruit, peaches are commercially grown in both the northern and southern hemispheres, resulting in the availability of fresh peaches in every month of the year. In the southern hemisphere, reduced labor costs allow for production and shipping to distant markets that would be impossible on this side of the equator. Even in North America there are a number of states where peaches are grown ...
Chapter 15: Financial Needs to Get into the Peach Business
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Peach production is one of the most intensive forms of agricultural production. Establishment of a peach orchard is both labor and capital intensive and should be attempted only after a complete economic analysis of the cost/benefit relationship. A considerable investment is required to establish the orchard and purchase the necessary machinery and equipment before the first harvest of peaches can be expected. Labor requirements of an intensively managed orchard must also be recognized. Negative cumulative cash flows can be ...
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Page Count: 172
Illustrations: 106 color photos. 2 line art. Index.
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: AgriLife Research and Extension Service Series