Texas Production: 2 million pounds
Peach production is concentrated in three areas of Texas, east (Smith and surrounding counties), central (Gillespie and surrounding counties) and central north west (Montague and surrounding counties). Peaches are grown in other parts of the state but generally are in small one acre or less orchards.
Texas peach production expense is approximately $3500/Acre per year for a well-maintained orchard. Labor is needed for pruning, thinning and at harvest. Most of Texas' peaches are marketed directly to consumers through roadside stands and local farmers' markets.
Peaches can be grown in a wide range of soil types. The ideal, however, is a well drained, sandy loam at least 18 to 24 inches above a red, well-drained clay subsoil. Spacing is approximately 100 trees per acre. While site selection is important, the major limiting factor for Texas peaches is an untimely bloom killing frost. The average last day for a frost varies significantly across the state and proper selection of trees with chilling requirements in synchronization with a particular location is extremely important for long term orchard sustainability.
The Texas peach industry, as with that in other southern peach producing regions, has to contend with a phenomenon called peach tree short life (PTSL). This is a poorly understood malady, most common to peach-replant sites, that results in premature tree death, usually first observed in the 4 to 5th year after planting. To minimize the potential for PTSL losses, sites should not be replanted to peaches for a minimum of 4 to 5 years.
Peach trees will inherently start a season with more fruit than can physically be accommodated. This overloading of trees is common to modern cultivars and must be dealt with to prevent tree damage from too much weight on limbs and branches. Workers 'thin' by cutting unwanted growth out of trees and 'prune' by reducing the number of set fruit, ultimately leaving about 600 fruits to mature on an individual tree. The goal of 'thinning' and 'pruning' is to reduce fruit load, sometime before the peaches are about a quarter of an inch or less in size.
As the peach increases in size, supplemental irrigation and fertilization are encouraged. These water requirements will range 7-30 gallons per tree especially during the 4 to 6 weeks preceding fruit maturity. Along with supplemental moisture, mature peach trees generally will receive 50 to 60 pounds of actual nitrogen (N) per acre in early spring or late winter. Another application of 15 pounds of nitrogen per tree may be made in late August or early September.
Workers are typically present in peach orchards during the winter for pruning and in early spring for thinning. It usually requires 15-30 minutes to prune a mature peach and this should be completed prior to bud break. Thinning occurs 4-6 weeks after bloom and will require about 15-30 minutes per tree. Peaches are usually thinned twice, with second time requiring 10-15 minutes per tree. All of this, however, is dependent on tree canopy size. Some growers use mechanical thinners which reduces the number of needed workers. Workers are needed at harvest to hand pick fruit.
Workers are in orchards to drive sprayers and for cultivation. Spray applications are mostly by ground, using mist blowers. Smaller operations will generally use high volume, low pressure equipment. The availability of chemical control materials with short pre-harvest intervals are important to accommodate late season pest problems that coincide with harvests. Re-entry intervals can be a major factor during thinning. Aside from harvest, pruning and thinning are the most hand labor intensive activities that occur in peach production.Insects, Weeds and Diseases
Numerous insects, weeds and diseases are problems in Texas peach orchards. Major insect pests include the San Jose scale, white peach scale, greater and lesser peach tree borers, plum curculio, peach twig borer, catfacing insects and oriental fruit moth. To determine the onset of injurious pest levels insect populations may be monitored, but this is difficult because of pest mobility and the difficulty of correlating pest numbers with damage. Serious diseases are scab, brown rot, bacterial spot, post-oak root rot, and cotton root rot. Weed control usually consists of keeping weed free under tree strips and mowing orchard middles. Weeds compete directly with trees for moisture and in most commercial orchards are managed. It is especially important to control weeds in young, recently established fields. The elimination of winter annual weeds can help decrease some insect problems.
Because of lower humidity, fewer insect and disease problems occur in the far Western part of Texas but, on occasion, may have populations sufficient to warrant control measures. Extensive literature reviews for the plum curculio, peachtree and lesser peachtree borers have been developed.
Historically, the plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) has been the most damaging pest of peaches in East Texas, generally because of most orchards' close association with forested areas. The immatures of this snout beetle are white legless grubs that develop inside the fruit. The adult, a 3/16 inch long brown weevil with distinct grey spots, feeds on leaves, blossoms and fruit. Winters are spent in trash or debris near the orchard and in the spring females emerge, migrate and lay eggs in developing fruit. The larvae feed inside fruit causing them to drop off the tree. Surviving fruit, often with just curculio feeding damage, will be distorted or 'catfaced'. After feeding and developing inside the fruit, the larvae emerge, drop to the ground and enter the soil to pupate. There are generally two generations occurring per year. It is believed that removal of infested fruit from an orchard can lower the incidence of second generation plum curculios.
Several Hemipteran insect's feeding habits, along with the plum curculio, can cause scarring and deformation (catfacing) of peach fruit. Often present at any given time in a growing season, damages from these pests are most likely to occur from early season feeding. Catfacing insects include the tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris), leaf footed bugs and stink bugs in the genera Acrosternum, Euschistus, Thyanta, and Nezara. Most of these pests are active, migratory insects that usually do not reproduce on peaches and because of their highly mobile habits are very difficult to monitor and control.
Cover sprays for peach insect pests have traditionally included broad spectrum, long residual compounds. Elimination of these types of materials may eventually lead to new pest management challenges because of fewer insects being controlled with a single compound.
In a peach pest management strategy, orchard floor weed management will help reduce the incidence of many catfacing insect species by eliminating alternative hosts.
Peachtree and Lesser Peachtree Borer
The peachtree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) and the lesser peachtree borer (S. pictipes) are clearwing moths which, as immatures, can seriously weaken trees of several stone fruits, including peach. The peachtree borer larvae feed under the bark at the tree's base or just below the soil line. Following the feeding cycle and soil pupation, adults emerge in the fall (late August). There is only one generation per year. The lesser peachtree borer immature feeds under the bark of scafold limbs and will have multiple generations per year. Both of these pests are present in Texas but are more common in eastern parts of the state. Treatments are basal trunk sprays made in August for the peachtree borer. The lesser peachtree borer can be managed with cover sprays directed at fruit feeding pests and, in some instances, a post harvest cover spray.
The San Jose Scale, white peach scale and soft scale are often underrated Texas peach pests. All are small creatures that require a knowledgeable observer to detect and identify. Once found in damaging numbers, however, scales can generally be managed with prevailing strategies and tactics.
Scales on peaches, as in many other crops, are susceptible to biological control. In some instances these pests can be kept below economic injury levels by natural agents, given orchard environments are conducive to ecosystem stability, i.e., few chemical pesticide disruptions. The current control procedures are, for the most part, limited to chemical intervention once a pest outbreak occurs.
Scales are tiny sac-like insects with waxy coverings that have both male and female forms. The females lay eggs which hatch into crawlers that eventually move from beneath a parent scale to host leaves or fruit, feeding with threadlike sucking mouthparts. After feeding for 2 or 3 days, the young, or nymphs begin secreting coverings which enlarge as the young scale matures. After selecting a feeding site, females become immobile. Males on the other hand, following hatch and three weeks of immature maturation, emerge as winged insects and eventually mate with the sac-like stationary females. Males die soon after mating and the females go on to lay eggs, beginning another generation. Scale insects in all stages of development can exist throughout the year in Texas except during periods of extreme cold.
Oriental Fruit Moth
The oriental fruit moth (Grapholita molesta) has become a major pest of late blooming peach varieties in Texas. Immature stages of this insect bore inside peach tree branches and into the fruit causing terminal dieback and fruit drop. Control of the oriental fruit moth is often a by-product of other peach pest control treatments. Pheromone monitoring kits are commercially available for the oriental fruit moth and can be an aid in treatment decisions.
Other Peach Insect Pests
Grasshoppers have become a common pest of peaches in some of the more arid areas of the state. West of an imaginary San Antonio-Dallas north/south line this relatively new pest, in the more dryer times of the year and particularly where irrigation is used, will seriously defoliate trees. Damage often occurs near harvest necessitating short pre-harvest interval (PHI) insecticides. In some years there will be grasshopper problems in East Texas.
According to Extension Specialists, spider mite problems seem to be increasing in Texas peaches. Data on other crops suggest mites can elevate to pest status following the use of some types of chemical insecticides. This is believed to be the situation in Texas when organophosphate, carbamate and synthetic pyretheroid insecticides are used as early season peach cover sprays. Mite control is difficult and often requires several years to "clean up".
Insect Control in Texas Peaches
|Timing||# Apps.||Rate Per
|10%||cover spray**||1-2||4-14 oz|
|40%||late dormant||1-2||1-2 pts/A|
|60%||cover spray||2||1.5-2.25 lb/A|
|60%||late pre-harvest cover spray||1-2||1-2 qts.|
|25%||cover spray & basal spray||1||1 qt/100 gal water|
|(Lannate LV)||3%||cover spray||1-2||3-6 pt/A|
|70%||cover spray||2-3||2-4 lb/A|
*A single application of Lorsban is made mid to late August at a rate of 3lb AI per 100 gallons water. Applied to base of tree only.
**Cover Spray timing begins at petal fall or shuck split and continues on an as needed basis. Pesticide application is often characterized into groups that coincide with tree growth. These are dormant sprays (in winter) late dormant, pink bud, full bloom, petal fall, shuck split, cover sprays and post harvest treatments.
Several alternatives have been evaluated for peach insect pests. These include: Esteem, Actara, Calypso, Avaunt, and Intrepid.
Peach diseases are more common in the more humid areas of east Texas. The two most important fungal pathogens of peach are brown rot, Monilinia fructicola and peach scab Cladosporium carpophilum. Peach leaf curl, Taphrina deformans occurs sporadically but is generally not a problem. Other fungal diseases such as anthracnose, Colletotrichum spp. and constriction disease Phomopsis amygdali seldom occur. Rhizopus Rhizopus stolonifer and Gilbertella rot Gilbertella persicaria can be a problem under poor sanitation conditions and bacterial spot Xanthomonas campestris,can cause serious economic fruit loss when there is wet weather just after bloom. Bacterial canker caused by Pseudomonas syringae has been associated with peach tree short life (PTSL) complex as has the Root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne spp..
Brown rot poses the greatest disease threat to Texas peaches, however, it is an occasional pest. Although M. fructicola can cause blossom blight, it's fruit rot phase is the most devastating. Fruit rapidly increase in susceptibility as ripening begins (2 to 3 weeks before harvest) and this extends through harvest. Successful control of brown rot depends upon use of cultural and pesticide controls beginning before bloom. If inoculum is present and coincides with warm, moist weather conditions, brown rot can destroy 100% of a crop. Cultural practices which remove sources of overwintering disease stages play an important role in brown rot management.
Scab infection in peach occurs during the 4 week period following bloom. Symptoms are not visible until 5 to 7 weeks after infection, which means preventative controls are often used. Mild infections are mostly cosmetic, but fungicides can be used to prevent fruit cracking. Scab infections can also provide a mode of fruit entry for brown rot and other secondary fungi. The first fungicide applications are made at shuck split.
Peach leaf curl is most likely to occur when the weather is wet and cool during bud swell. Disease treatments made during the previous growing season can impact the severity of leaf curl the following spring. However, susceptibility to leaf curl among the peach cultivars varies greatly and not all support development of this disease.
Bacterial spot can affect peach leaves, twigs and fruit and is most serious on late-maturing varieties. There is a vast range in susceptibility to bacterial spot among cultivars, and over the past decade there has been an increase in the development of resistant varieties. When bacterial spot fungicide applications become necessary, they are made from bud swell through late bloom.
Bacterial canker, Pseudomonas spp. manifests itself on peaches as a tree trunk problem, appearing as a gnarled area of bark that often exudes a gummy material. No chemical sprays are generally applied solely for this disease but most orchards will have some trees infected. In East Texas growers are encouraged not to use high rates of nitrogen fertilizer in mid to late summer to avoid a flush of late fall growth. Pruning should only take place when trees are fully dormant (January and February).
Peach Disease Control
|5%||1-2||petal fall||11-15.4 oz/A|
|Captan||30%||2-9 times||cover spray*||1 to 4 lb/Acre|
|25%||1-3 times||Cover Spray||3 to 4.1 pints/Acre|
|15-20%||1-3||bud swell-petal fall||8-16 lb/A|
|2%||1-2||cover spray||2 lb/A|
|65%||1-2||Cover Spray||4 oz/A|
|75%||2-4||cover spray||.75-5 gal/A|
Topsin M 70W
*Cover Sprays begin at petal fall or shuck split and continue thru preharvest on an as needed basis
Weed control is one of the more important operations in growing peaches. Conditions that promote the health and well being of peach trees, i.e. adequate moisture and a good fertility program, also promote unwanted plants. Weed management is needed in peaches because supplemental irrigation and fertilization cannot overcome all of the ill effects of weed competition. Controlling winter weeds can help reduce the incidence of early season insects that cause catfacing of fruit and reducing weed competition in newly established orchards encourages optimum growth.
Historically, weeds in Texas peaches were controlled by discing and hand hoeing, but this method is usually not used because of the potential for erosion, the inability to move equipment in wet weather and labor cost. The most efficient orchard floor management system consists of a mowed, native sod middle along with a weed-free strip under the trees, drip-line wide.
Weed Control in Texas Peaches
|Active Ingredient||Acres Treated||No. Applications||Rate|