Apple thinning points for 2014

The 2014 apple thinning season factors are unique, as always, and will need consideration before performing thinning.

It is particularly noted that this long, extreme cold winter may cause some winter damage. Michigan State University Extension recommends making multiple thinning treatments this year to achieve your target crop load, and plan on starting your thinning early at petal fall. We have a good bloom this year, better than expected after the large crop last year. Some varieties have no or only light return bloom, such as Goldens, Fuji and Honeycrisp.

Trees appeared weak up until the warm weather moved in which greatly improved the appearance of the bloom and the foliage. Some trees are showing signs of a lighter set, such as Empire and Reds. Frost damage is not present this year and Kings are all alive. Bee activity, pollination and even fertilization were wonderful.

Thinning factors:

  • Heavy crop in 2013 means easier to thin in 2014.
  • Good bloom, many large, showy flowers.
  • Abundant leaves; “green” snowball bloom, strengthens set.
  • Good bee activity, predicted good pollination and fertilization.
  • No frost damage, but considerable tree winter damage.
  • Some varieties and trees with areas of reduced bloom.
  • Leave CHECK trees.
  • Use precision crop load management or “nibble” thinning, thin early and often to gradually reduce the crop.
  • Multiple thinning.

Precision crop load thinning or nibble thinning

Precision crop load management thinning is a strategy to chemically thin often and multiple times throughout the bloom and fruit set window. Technically, nibble thinning begins with blossom thinning (lime-sulfur and oil or ATS). This treatment seems to be less successful in Michigan and thus is not practiced very much. The real first thinning period occurs at petal fall to 6 millimeters. At petal fall, trees are not very sensitive to thinning, and most years no significant thinning occurs.

This year, with warm temperatures forecasted for the next several days, some good thinning is predicted, perhaps perfect thinning. This first thinning will remove off perhaps up to half of the target thinning crop load. Usually additional thinning will be required at the 10-millimeter stage. The next chance to thin will occur at the 10- to 12-millimeter stage and the last will be at 18 millimeters. This process of reducing the crop gradually will result in a better consistent thinning with a reduce risk of over-thinning or under-thinning.

Other considerations:

  • Oil can be added to thinners to increase the thinning by 10 percent.
  • Oil is not compatible with Captan and Sulfur. Where this is a concern, use a surfactant instead of oil.
  • Agri-Mec and oil can cause additional thinning when mixed with thinners.
  • Cloudy, warm weather will increase fruit drop.
  • Sunny, cold weather will increase set.

Thinning materials and recommendation for multiple thinning

Variety

Petal fall to 6 mm

10 to 12 mm stage

Variety comment

If needed

If more aggressive thinning is needed

Frost damage

Kings dead

Sevin or NAA 10 ppm

Standard Rates

 

 

Significant damage

Wait to access set.

Tops only, mild rates

Standard Rates

 

Easy to thin varieties

Cortland, Gingergold, Ida Red, Jonathan, Jonagold, McIntosh

Use Standard Rates Sevin or NAA 10 ppm

NAA 10 ppm

Sevin + NAA 5 ppm

Easy to thin

Jonathan with MaxCel

Sevin

Sevin

Sevin + MaxCel 50 ppm

Small fruited and easy to thin

Intermediate to thin varieties

Empire

Sevin + MaxCel 100 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 100 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 150 ppm

Small fruited

Honeycrisp

Sevin + NAA 10 ppm

Sevin + NAA 10 ppm

Sevin + NAA 15 ppm

Tend to set multiple fruits/cluster, biennial

Reds

Sevin + MaxCel 100 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 100 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 150 ppm

Biennial, sensitive to NAA

Difficult to thin varieties

Gala

Sevin + MaxCel 100 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 100 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 150 ppm

Goldens, Paula Rred

Sevin + NAA 10 ppm

Sevin + NAA 15 ppm

Sevin + NAA 15 ppm

Biennial

Rome

Sevin + NAA 10 ppm

Sevin + NAA 15 ppm

Sevin + NAA 20 ppm + 1 qt Oil

Tend to set multiple fruits/cluster

Fuji

Sevin + MaxCel 100 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 150 ppm

Sevin + MaxCel 150 ppm + 1 qt Oil

Biennial, sensitive to NAA

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