2018 Fruit Production

Wow… it’s almost February already! As we have progressed past the harshest part of winter (hopefully), it’s time to think more about fruit production and items necessary to promote good plant growth. Grapes, brambles, blueberries, apples, peaches, pears, etc., all need pruned in the next few weeks if you haven’t already finished them.  I’ve added some pictures below to help determine what the finished product might look like. Good pruning for sunlight, air penetration and spray coverage is a key to good fruit production.


Grapes before pruning                             Grapes after pruning



Blackberries before pruning                    Blackberries after pruning



Blueberry before pruning                             Blueberry after pruning



Apple or Pear pruning cuts              Peach or Cherry pruning for open center


Tree fruit producers should also be thinking about dormant oil sprays and/or copper applications if fire blight was severe last year in your trees. Oils…only apply when temperatures are above 40°F, never during freezing weather (read the label). Timely applications of any insecticide or fungicide is necessary if you want to get the full benefit of using them, so plan now and have the correct products ready to use as needed.  Also remember, pesticide resistance management is something we all need to guard against. Read the labels of any pesticides being used and rotate to other products as listed on the labels.

Black Rot in Grapes– I have many homeowners who contact me each year, as fall approaches, saying their grapes are turning black and shriveling up just about the time they start to ripen. This is a problem that must be controlled in the spring as the new vines are growing. The period from immediate pre-bloom through 3 to 4 weeks after bloom is the most critical period for controlling black rot. New growth, no larger than seen in the picture below, is the time to start spraying.  Two fungicides, Mancozeb (ex. Bonide Mancozeb 37%) or Mycobutanil (ex. Immunox Fungicide) are products that control black rot. Be sure to read the label for proper application rate, preharvest interval and timing between sprays. If sprays are not made (missed), an improper rate applied or complete coverage is not obtained, you cannot expect to get satisfactory disease control of black rot.

A great resource for home growing fruit producers is OSU Bulletin 780, Controlling Diseases and Insects in the Home Fruit Plantings. Pick one up from your local OSU Extension Office.

2018 is well underway. Are you ready for a productive fruit growing season? Let’s get ready to prune!



Watch Out for Cucumber Beetles

Striped cucumber beetles start flying around even before many of our plants emerge. This means they are often there just as the cucumber, squash, pumpkin and melon seedlings push through the soil, eating off the stems and first leaves to emerge. Later, adults feed on leaves, vines and fruits that survive. Larvae feed on the roots of the plants, weakening them and making them susceptible to other problems.

One problem these beetles cause is a disease called bacterial wilt, a serious disease of many vine crops. The bacteria overwinters in the bodies of hibernating beetles which introduce the bacteria to the plants during feeding. Infected plants quickly wilt, the leaves dry, and the plants eventually die. Cucumber beetles also spread the squash mosaic virus.

Bacterial wilt and mosaic virus must be prevented since they cannot be controlled once the plant is infected.  Inspect plants frequently for the striped cucumber beetle (the adult is about 0.2 in. long, tan in color with three black stripes down the back). Row covers provide some protection, but must be removed during pollination. Some resistant varieties are available, and there are a few products labeled for control of the beetle.  Always read and follow pesticide label directions when used.

Producing High Quality Fruit at Home

Pruning- Pruning the fruit tree is an important step in improving fruit quality. Fire blight, powdery Fruit treemildew and summer rots can be reduced by carefully pruning out limbs harboring disease inoculum. Pruning trees should be done according to the desired structural shape of the tree.

Prune out all broken and dead branches and any sucker growth around the bottom of the tree trunk. Once the dead and broken material has been removed, the general shape of the healthy tree can be seen. Correct pruning helps improve overall air movement and sunlight penetration into the canopy. It also helps reduce disease and insect pressure. A rule of thumb I often use when pruning fruit trees is, “When in doubt, prune it out”. All pruning should be completed no later than mid-March for best results here in Ohio.

If trees have been neglected for several years, they may need to be rejuvenated. A second step is to decide how big/tall the tree should be. A tree with dwarfing rootstock can be maintained at about 8 to 10 feet tall, semi-dwarf rootstock at about 12 to 16 feet and a standard rootstock at about 16 to 20 feet tall. If your trees have not been pruned in many years, you should not cut them to the desired height in one year.

Your plan should be to reduce the tree height over a period of about 3 years by removing no more than one-third of the height each year (ex. 25’ tree to a final height of 16’— lower at a rate of about 3’ each year). Do not cut all the limbs in half or “Top” the tree, like some people and or tree trimming companies do with shade trees, to reduce their height. Pick and choose limbs that can be cut back to the approximate desired length, at a lateral branch, and make the cut there. “Work” the tree height down systematically over the time period rather topping.

When working with neglected trees do not feed the tree with nitrogen after pruning. Nitrogen applications would stimulate growth and compound the problem you are trying to fix. Water sprouts will likely develop around or below pruned areas during the spring and summer. Removal of this vegetative growth should be frequently done by rubbing off or pulling off the shoot while it is still short and green around the bottom (<10-12 inches in length). Pulling is recommended rather than cutting so you remove the entire shoot and not have a short stub remaining. If the shoots become brown and woody at the base, pulling may no longer be an option because you may cause unwanted tearing into the bark. Cutting is then preferred.

Disease Control- Early spring is the best time to apply sprays to control certain insects and diseases. Gardeners who have had problems in the past years should consider applying early season sprays to prevent or minimize pest damage to the leaves and fruit of the trees. Additional applications of fungicide and insecticide sprays during the growing season may be necessary to control specific pests. Early application of the proper sprays should minimize the use of pesticides during the remainder of the growing season.

Dormant oil sprays are intended to be used before the leaf or fruit buds open in the spring. This can effectively control many scale insects, European red mite eggs and aphids. Be sure to check the label, for temperature restrictions before applying dormant oils. Early season fungicide sprays should be applied at the green tip through pink or white bud growth stages. These sprays will help minimize diseases. Application of fungicides while trees are blooming may be made, but insecticide sprays should not be made during the flower blooming stage to protect pollinating bees. Additional applications of fungicides or insecticides may be needed to insure high quality fruit later in the season.

For more information about pruning specific trees or applying sprays correctly, contact Mark at the Monroe County Extension office at 740-472-0810. Bulletins and factsheets are available which contain pruning information. Also available are spray guides to help you produce high quality fruit your trees are capable of producing.

Fruit and Vegetable Lost Yield Documentation for the Racine Locks and Dam Peninsula Area in Meigs County

Farmers in Meigs are suffering significant yield losses due to the extreme weather the area has experience this summer. We just finished one of the wettest Junes on record in Ohio. While obtaining a precipitation report for the months of May and June from the Racine Locks and Damn, Kim Johnson, NPR, pointed out that June of this year is the highest monthly total of precipitation that we have recorded for several years. The heavy rainfall, consistently wet weather, and cool temperatures are creating serious problems in the fields. A few major problems include (but not limited to): saturated and flooded fields, bacteria and fungus explosions, rapid weed growth, and leaching of field nutrients. Getting into the fields to combat these problems was extremely difficult due the to constant rain events and soil compactions issues.

These fruit s and vegetable producers have also been experiencing another problem in addition to field damage and diseases; unsellable produce. Producers have been undergoing short windows to harvest available produce. However, produce in the field has become water logged causing aesthetic problems (blemishes and crack) and transportation issues. Although some of the produce is perfectly edible, it is still being rejected due to aesthetic reasons. As a result, customers are reducing and cutting orders. For example, one farmer experienced a 1200 box (10 lbs/box) order cut from a major grocery store chain. This is only one example of such cuts.

All pictures were taken by OSU ANR educator Marcus McCartney on farms across the Racine locks and dam peninsula area to document the damage and diseases associated with the extreme wet weather events experienced during the months of June and July.

#1. Flooding

A. Pepper Field                                                  B. Tomato Field                                  C. Watermelon field    and    D. Watermelon field after water receded

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*NOTE:  Peppers are growing in the Lakin loamy fine sand soil series. According the NRCS soil description, the natural drainage class is listed as “Excessively drained.” However, due to the amount rain    and rainfall events, ponding and flooding occurred in highly drainable soils.

#2. Phytophthora blight in peppers

A) water-soaked patches                      (B) “Powdered sugar” Phytophthora spores    (C)  Infected row              (D) large section of field infected


#3 Early Blight

A)  concentric rings surrounded by a yellow halo   (B) elongated spots with lighter-colored centers  (C) Infected row

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#4 White Mold explosion

A) Underneath watermelon                (B) Cantaloupe                                      (C) Cucumbers                                        (D) White mold on weed in field

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#5 Poor quality and rejected produce

A) Rejected tomato fruit due to cracking                    (B)  Cabbage – loosely rolled heads, not tight leaf layers

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The above information and pictures were generated into a report to depict the damage in Meigs County due to the excessive rainfall.  This report was sent to FSA and then forwarded to Columbus.  Also, the above pictures and information is just a sample from the report’s content.