High Density Hybrid Plums: Innovation and Efficient Fruit Production for the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $7,508.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2021
Grant Recipient: O'Meara Family Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
John O'Meara
O'Meara Family Farm


  • Fruits: plums


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, fruit tree training

    Proposal summary:

    Hybrid Plums are an underutilized fruit. Hardy into the far north, productive, reliable, and novel, there are many opportunities for marketing hybrid plums – both retail and wholesale. In consumer testing at the University of Maine, hybrid plums were as well-liked as Japanese plums. While there are few commercial sized plantings of hybrid plums in the northeast, these plums offer significant opportunity for orchards of all sizes.

    This project aims to test hybrid varieties and the most efficient way of growing hybrid plums in a high-density system. Because labor costs are often the limiting factor in the success of any orchard, this project will test which hybrid variety in which high-density system reduces labor costs while maximizing the quality of the fruit. A key element of fruit production is getting a return on the initial investment as quickly as possible; high density systems are designed to shorten the establishment phase compared to standard planting systems and therefore make the planting more economically viable. This project will test different varieties and systems to get the most amount of marketable fruit per acre while keeping labor costs to a minimum.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    In the first part of this project, five varieties of hybrid plums will be tested in the vertical axis high-density system to determine which variety does best with close spacing. Because plum trees are often more vigorous than dwarf trees of other species, finding the hybrid plum that does best in close spacing is a key element to making high-density hybrid plum plantings successful.

    In general, finding the variety that performs well in a close spacing offers the most economic opportunity for an orchardist using the high-density method. The second part of the project will consist of testing three different high-density systems with one variety.

    The objective of this part of the project is to determine if one of the three systems stands out as more efficient given the particular nature of hybrid plum trees.

    Apple orchards and others have switched to high density systems in order to achieve economic and environmental viability. This project’s objectives aim to test high density systems for hybrid plums and thus offer more opportunity for the region’s orchardists.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.