Evaluation of 12 Yellow Flesh Peach Cultivars for Organic Production in the Northeast

2011 Annual Report for FNE11-730

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,536.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Jim Travis
Fruit Farmer

Evaluation of 12 Yellow Flesh Peach Cultivars for Organic Production in the Northeast


Project Goals and 2011 Activities

Selected yellow flesh peach cultivars were evaluated for the first year of a 2-year project in 2011 for their suitability for organic production in the Northeastern U.S. The 12 cultivars were selected based on their susceptibility to bacterial spot, and brown rot, and for good tree vigor, and fruit firmness. Orchard observations will confirm or refute these characteristics and further refine each cultivar’s suitability for organic production.

Additionally, tree training as it affects tree and fruit exposure to sunlight and air circulation is being managed utilizing the Perpendicular –V training system to optimize the successful production of organic peaches. Outreach for the information obtained from this project will occur through extension newsletter articles, personnel communication and a final project handout summary which will include project goals, methods and a summary and analysis of the results will be prepared for distribution to interested growers through extension.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Year 1-2011

This project is taking a broad approach to organic peach production understanding that quality peach production is a result of individual disease and pest organisms, the tree host response to pests based on the peach tree host’s health as supported or undermined by nutrition, training system and the environment both physical and biological.

This project is making observations, taking measurements and recording several contributing production inputs such as tree growth and vigor, soil and plant tissue nutrient levels, pest and beneficial insects in the orchard, and weather conditions that will all contribute or detract from the successful production of organically grown peaches in Adams County PA specifically with application for the Northeastern United States.

Ultimately, we hope this project will improve the productivity of organically grown peaches in the Northeastern, reduce cost due to the natural resistance to disease of the cultivars and ultimately improve farm income by providing a means for Northeastern farmers to grow and sell high quality organic peaches. There will also be a reduction in environmental and health risks since cultural and biological beneficial insect practices will be followed to reduce sprays and agricultural pollution.


Year 1-2011

Farm Operation Update: We are Mike and Jim Travis and are the co-owners of Apple Tree Vineyard and Farm, LLC which we established in September 2008. In 2009 we were able to lease a 10 acre mature wine grape vineyard (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) on a near-by property after the retirement of the farmer vineyard owner. We completed our third wine grape harvest in 2011. The purchase of an 84 acre tract of virgin land to agricultural production in 2008 provided the potential for expansion into organic fruit production in future years. In 2010 we initiated the organic component of our business by planting 2 acres of high density (greater than 500 trees/acre) disease resistant apple cultivars (Enterprise, Liberty, Goldrush, and Crimson Crisp) on the virgin land we purchased. In 2010, we planted a one acre area with 12 selected yellow flesh peach cultivars in a high density (5 foot in-row spacing) orchard next to the organic apples. For 2012 we have nursery orders for Crimson Topaz and Goldrush apples to complete 6 acres of high density organic apple production. Our intention is to offer consumers both organic apples and peaches produced on our farm.

Preliminary tree training, nutrient and weed management advice is being provided by Dr. Robert Crassweller, Penn State University Extension Pomologist. Weed management consists of hand-pulling, a propane weed burner, and applications of Green Match herbicide which is approved for organic production. In 2011 and 2012, Dr. Rob Crassweller is providing on-site instruction on tree pruning for the ‘V’ training system.

Overall tree health and vigor were rated in 2011 and will be repeated in 2012. In 2012 winter survival and bud break percentage will be observed in the spring. Observations in 2012 will also include the suitability of each cultivar for the ‘Perpendicular -V’ training system with data collected on ‘V’ limb development, limb breakage, fruitfulness, yield and fruit quality following standardize protocols for each category. Initial observations on individual cultivar suitability for Perpendicular ‘V’ training were made in late 2011.

See Image 1: ‘V’ Sentry Peach

Perpendicular ‘V’ limb development ratings ranged from 1 (poor) to 5 (good). Factors considered for ‘V’ training included, branch angle, number of branches and branch orientation. Suitability for Perpendicular ‘V’ training on 2 year old trees were: Sentry (5), Glenglo (2), Redhaven (5), FlavrBurst (3), FFuryPF Lucky 13 (5), John Boy (3), Summerfest (1), FFury PF17 (3), Bounty (4), FFury PF Lucky 24B (5), Gloria (4), Autumnstar (3).

Tree growth ratings (vigor) were based on a scale from 1 (poor growth) to 5 (healthy growth). Cultivar growth ratings for 2011 on 2 year old trees were: Sentry (5), Glenglo (3), Redhaven (4), FlavrBurst (2), FFuryPF Lucky 13 (3), John Boy (2), Summerfest (4), FFury PF17 (3), Bounty (4), FFury PF Lucky 24B (5), Gloria (4), Autumnstar (2).

Nutrient management soil applications of compost were made in 2011 based on growth observations, and soil nutrient analysis collected in 2011. Nutrient soil analysis indicated the pH ranged between 5.9 to 6.3. Lime produced from a stone quarry was applied with a spreader between rows following the analysis recommendations in the fall 2011. Leaf petiole analysis and soil nutrient analysis will be taken again in 2012.

Weed management is one of the most difficult aspects of organic fruit production. Weeds have been managed using mowing of thick grass drive rows, cultivation along the edge of the tree rows, and weed burn down with organic contact herbicide and propane burner between trees. The results were less effective than desired but weed suppression did occur with repetitions.

See Image 2: Weed Management.

Disease susceptibility under organic management was observed for bacterial spot and powdery mildew and peach canker (Leucostoma canker) in 2011. Only peach canker was observed on some cultivars, the 2011 season was too dry for bacterial spot or leaf powdery mildew. In May, 2011 the cankers were removed on trunks with peach canker by surgically removing the diseased tissue to allow the healthy remaining tissue to heal. Full and healthy callus growth was observed for each case by the end of the growing season. The Sentry cultivar had the most cankers with cankers also being observed on Redhaven, and FFury PF 17.

See Image 3: Healed Canker

Insect infestations were observed and recorded in 2011. No organic management practices or treatments were applied since beneficial insects controlled problem pests which included green aphids and a few two spotted spider mites. Stink bugs were observed but no damage occurred since there was no fruit (second year trees).

Beneficial insects included lady bird beetles, syrphid flies, spiders and praying mantis. Wildflowers were planted outside the orchard to encourage beneficial insects. Peach tree borer frass and after some investigation, borers were observed on a few trees. The borers were removed and soil was mounded over the crown of the tree to prevent further infestation. The borer damage was not extensive so the trees are expected to recover but they will be observed in 2012 for healing and growth after borer removal.

See Image 4: Wildflowers.

Since the orchard has been planted to high density which will offer early fruit production, both leaf and fruit quality measurements will be made during the first year of fruiting in 2012 (third leaf).

Orchard weather conditions were recorded using a Davis Vantage Pro-2 on-site weather station located next to the peach orchard. The station recorded hourly temperature, humidity, leaf wetness, wind speed and direction and rainfall amount and intensity. In general, the season started out wet through May and early June with normal seasonal temperatures. However, rainfall amounts were lower than average for late June, July and August but excessive in September (Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee) and normal in October.

Since there was no fruit on the trees (2nd leaf), the fall moisture and generally warm temperatures helped the trees recover from the summer drought and prepare for winter hardening off. There were no early winter freezes through December 2011. An unusual October snow fall occurred of a few inches. The snow was shaken off the trees during the storm to prevent limb breakage.

See Image 5: Oct. Snow

Fruit quality and yield will be evaluated in 2012.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Final impacts and Outcomes will be reported after the 2012 season.


Dr. Robert Crassweller

[email protected]
Professor of Pomolgy
Penn State University
Tyson Building
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148636163
Mike Travis

[email protected]
Fruit Farmer
Apple Tree Vineyard and Farm
311 Cherry Hill LN
Fairfield, PA 17320
Office Phone: 7176426160