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By: Jackie Carroll
If you’re suffering from splitting of stone fruits then it is likely due to what is known as stone fruit pit split. So what is pit split in stone fruit and what causes pit split in the first place? Keep reading to learn more about this disorder and what you can do to alleviate the problem.
What is Pit Split in Stone Fruit?
About 40 days after the tree blooms, the pit inside the fruit begins to harden. At this point the flesh adheres to the pit tightly. Anything that causes rapid swelling and growth of the flesh exerts pressure on the pit. If the fruit swells before the bond between the pit and the flesh weakens, the pit may be pulled apart.
If the fracture occurs along the suture line that runs down the side of the pit, the result is pit split. If the pit breaks into several pieces, it is called pit shattering.
Fruits with pit split disorder may exhibit external signs that indicate there is a problem. Visible symptoms include misshapen fruit and openings at the stem end of the fruit. Fruit with shattered pits don’t show any external indications of the problem. Common stone fruits associated with pit split include:
What Causes Pit Split?
Pit split and pit shattering are two stone fruit growing problems caused by environmental conditions, or by steps taken by growers to produce larger fruit.
Anything that causes the fruit to grow larger increases the chance of pit splitting of stone fruits. This includes excessive thinning as well as increased watering and fertilizing close to harvest time.
A late frost that causes a partial crop loss and heavy rains during the critical growth period also cause pit splitting and shattering.
Control Measures for Stone Fruit Pit Split
While there is little you can do once you are exhibiting these stone fruit growing problems, you can take measures to prevent it from happening.
Avoid excessive thinning. It’s best to wait until after the pits have hardened to thin the clusters. You may be able to get the same results from pruning out some of the fruit-bearing branches rather than reducing the size of the clusters.
Don’t take steps to increase the size of the fruit as harvest time approaches. Avoid excessive watering and fertilizing. The fruit ripens evenly if the soil is kept consistently moist at all times. Irregular patterns of drought followed by excessive moisture encourages pit split.
Early ripening varieties are most susceptible to stone fruit pit split because of the short time between pit hardening and fruit swelling. Choose late varieties from local nurseries where they can help select appropriate varieties for the local climate.
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Read more about General Fruit Care
Bark Disease on Fruit Trees
Most diseases of the bark on fruit trees cause cankers or knots. Some diseases are fatal, while others just result in a smaller crop. Chemical treatments can help prevent diseases, but are not effective in controlling diseases after a tree is infected. Proper cultural methods of caring for fruit trees are the best way to prevent diseases.
The pathogen can overwinter in twigs, buds, and leaf scars, providing sources of infection for leaf and fruit lesions to develop in the spring. All infected tissues will then contribute to further disease spread throughout the growing season.
Since bacterial cells spread by water droplets, warm, humid conditions, dew, and rain (particularly wind-driven rain) promote disease spread.
The peak period for the development of leaf and fruit lesions is between petal fall and shuck split, so weather conditions at this time are critical in determining the severity of the infection for the current year. Wounds serve as infection reservoirs any activity that promotes wounds, such as small abrasions on leaves, fruit, or twigs will help spread the disease.
Caring for Your Peach Tree
How should you care for your peach tree as it grows throughout its lifetime? Read on to find out.
Water frequently and evenly, especially while your tree is still young. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to disease. Plan to water every 10 to 14 days during warm, dry periods.
Feed an established tree with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. Give a young tree 3/4 of a pound of nitrogen once in the spring and again in the summer. After the third year, give trees 1 pound of nitrogen each year. Avoid fertilizing when fruits are growing or a month before the first frost.
It’s essential to prune peach trees each year to prevent overgrowth and to encourage fruiting and yield. It’s fine to prune your peach tree anytime, but if you have a lot to pick off, save that job until the fall. Always get rid of broken and dead branches first and then remove suckers at the base of the tree.
Get rid of weak branches incapable of holding heavy fruit set, too. Prune off branches that are too close together to promote air circulation and prevent knicks that may leave room for disease and pest infiltration.
Proper regular pruning will promote healthy growth, fruit set, and will make it easier to maintain your tree’s health from year to year. When fruit sets, it’s also essential to thin fruits early in the season. Removing some of the young peaches will allow other fruit to grow bigger.
Monitor Your Tree Closely
Try and make sure that your tree is not stressed and doesn’t have any wounds on it.
Leucostoma canker is common in backyard trees, so be very careful when you prune them. You may want to apply a chemical treatment after pruning, so the fungus will not be able to enter through pruning wounds.
Keep an eye out for gummosis. If you see it, try and determine if it is due to fungal injury. If so, quickly prune out the damaged tissue before it spreads.
And if you do lose a tree to this fungus, please remove it. The fungus will continue to live on the dead tissue and will keep producing spores to infect other trees.
Have you waged war against gummosis in your garden or home orchard? If so, let us know how it went in the comments.
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About Helga George, PhD
One of Helga George’s greatest childhood joys was reading about rare and greenhouse plants that would not grow in Delaware. Now that she lives near Santa Barbara, California, she is delighted that many of these grow right outside! Fascinated by the childhood discovery that plants make chemicals to defend themselves, Helga embarked on further academic study and obtained two degrees, studying plant diseases as a plant pathology major. She holds a BS in agriculture from Cornell University, and an MS from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Helga then returned to Cornell to obtain a PhD, studying one of the model systems of plant defense. She transitioned to full-time writing in 2009.
Fruit trees should be fertilized at the recommended rate and times to encourage healthy growth. Insecticides can be used to get rid of insects that carry diseases.
Most fruit tree diseases cannot be controlled but they may be prevented by applications of a fungicide. Some types of fungicides for fruit trees are copper, sulfur and Bordeaux, which is a mixture of calcium hydroxide and copper sulfate. Fungicides should be applied according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Infected limbs and branches should be pruned out and destroyed.
- Most fruit tree diseases cannot be controlled but they may be prevented by applications of a fungicide.
The local county extension office can provide information on fertilization of fruit trees, as well as chemical treatments for fruit tree diseases.
Q&A: How to prevent brown rot in peaches and other stone fruit
Question: Have readers reported more than usual brown rot on stone fruit this year? Our five-year-old orchard of heritage fruit hasn't had any issues with brown rot at all until this year. Will our trees be affected again next season without being treated or only if conditions are favourable again?
Answer: Brown rot is an ever-present problem in Auckland and anywhere else with humid conditions, though southern gardeners are definitely not immune either.
Brown rot is one of the most frustrating diseases for home orchardists. Just as fruit start to ripen, a furry brown mould rapidly spreads over the skin, ruining the crop. It mainly affects peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries.
Infection begins in spring, causing the blossoms to turn brown and wilt. A few infected flowers can produce enough fungal spores to ruin a whole tree. The spores are shed by the millions, spread by wind and rain, latent until the fruit is almost ripe.
Once you have spotted infection, carefully remove the mouldy, shrivelled remnants from the tree or the ground if you leave them, millions of disease spores will reinfect the tree next spring.
You can protect stone fruit trees by pruning them in late summer during a dry spell. A spray with copper fungicide in autumn will kill brown rot spores. Repeat in spring, before and after flowering. If brown rot has been a regular problem for you, spraying through until harvest may be necessary (check the withholding period before picking fruit). Thin out the crop in early summer too. Tightly packed fruit with little air flow between each piece creates optimum conditions for disease spores to nestle in and infect neighbouring fruit.
If you're planting new trees, choose early-ripening varieties. They will be ready to harvest before the main period of humidity in February.