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Rogers Mesa- Peach root stock and variety trial 2019-2025

Investment in trees for an orchard is based on the likelihood that the tree will perform well in the locale for many years. A poor choice of variety is very costly, and may require replanting after the variety fails to perform to standards. Regional variety trials are critical to inform growers about the different attributes and deficiencies of specific varieties under the region’s specific environmental characteristics. Fruit tree performance is often dictated by the root stock on which the fruiting wood is grafted to, and so a combination of root stock/variety trial informs growers about the benefits of different combinations of the root stock and scion.

This trial will compliment work being done at WCRC Orchard Mesa by providing data for growers in the region that farm in very different environments. Additionally the organic production systems in place at RMORS will provide information for organic growers that they are unable to obtain elsewhere in the region

  • Identify peach varieties that perform well under organic production practices and that exhibit favorable attributes for regional producers. This rootstock trial will explore a wide range of peach tree responses to different root stocks and rootstock/variety combinations. Observations of responses will include: tolerance to high pH soils, organic soil fertility practices, winter hardiness, precocity, frost tolerance during critical fruit bud development stages, tolerance or resistance to Cytospora canker, tree habit and response to modern high density planting cultural practices, drought tolerance, pest and disease susceptibility, fruit quality, post-harvest storage attributes/problems. Fruit quality and acceptance by producers, packers and buyers will be evaluated.
  • Develop educational materials and make these available to the public through publications, presentations at conferences and during field days.
  1. Established fruit producers.
  2. New growers.
  3. Regional fruit packing sheds
  4. Local and regional grocers/buyers.

Identify root stocks and varieties whose fruiting buds and flowers are more likely to survive late spring freezes, and that are resistant to Cytospora canker. Additionally, identification of rootstocks and varieties that produce high quality fruit, good yields and highly marketable fruit. It is the goal of this project to provide information to growers, buyers and processors that will increase their competitiveness and that will strengthen the position of regional fruit growers, and shippers while providing local consumers with high quality and nutritious fruit choices.

2019 - establishment phase

  1. Planting and irrigation installation
  2. Establish cover crop
  3. Record Initial Tree Growth
    1. tree vigor
    2. tree nutrition responses – high pH responses
    3. Pest and disease susceptibility
    4. Cover crop evaluation
    5. Ability to compete with weed pressure
    6. Acclimation and winter hardiness

2020-2021 Early growth phase

  1. Maintain and train the trees to commercial production norms.
  2. Observe and record tree growth.
    1. Growth habits and suitability for commercial production
    2. Disease and insect susceptibility
    3. Responses to varied fertilization
    4. Responses to varied irrigation
    5. Winter hardiness
    6. Fruit quality – multiple metrics
    7. Post-harvest storage
  3. Report early growth observations

2022 – 2025 Mature tree phase

  1. Record tree growth, winter hardiness, pest and disease resistance/tolerance, fruit yields and fruit quality using standard parameters.
  2. Identify the best candidates for production in this region, and score them against standard varieties and rootstocks.
  3. Analyze and publish results and present findings to growers, packers, buyers.
  4. Continue to observe and record tree performance over an extended period of time to allow for observation of tree performance under a range of challenging weather events.

  1. Year 1: Field preparation and planting – soil analysis, pre-plant application of compost to match recommendation, installation of irrigation, bare root plant on 4’X12’ spacing, install trellis posts and 1st trellis wire, initiate training. Pending irrigation season forecast, establish (or not) ground cover between rows. Hand weed and apply organic burn down herbicide in-row
  2. Year 2: Maintain trees and prune as needed. Control weeds in tree rows and establish cover crop in the drive rows. Evaluate tree growth, habit, disease and pest susceptibility, adaptability to high pH soils. Report on initial observations.
  3. Year 3: Continue crop cultural practices and observations. Some fruit will be produced and initial fruiting bud hardiness will be evaluated. Report on initial observations.
  4. Year 4 and forward: Continue crop cultural practices and observations of the trees and fruit that should be in good production by this time. Evaluate performance and publish results.
  1. Some of the root stocks and varieties will show promise for commercial planting in the region, while others will not. Adoption by growers of the rootstocks and varieties will take time as older less suitable plantings are replaced with new proven varieties. Desirable traits will include fruit bud hardiness, late flowering, Cytospora resistance/tolerance and high yields of excellent fruit quality.
  2. Develop and publish extension bulletins, present findings at annual research field days and WCHS conference
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