Michigan spring peach meeting scheduled for March 5

Attendees of the 2013 Michigan Spring Peach Update will learn ways to improve their profitability with educational sessions and discussions on growing, packing and marketing high quality peaches and nectarines.

PeachesPeach growers are always looking for ways to improve their profitability. The 2013 Michigan Spring Peach Update is the best annual meeting in Michigan to learn about this crop. The meeting will be held Tuesday, March 5, at the Michigan State University Extension Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center with registration starting at 8 a.m. and the program starting at 9 a.m.

The meeting will focus on fresh market peaches including new peach varieties, insect management strategies, disease control, marketing strategies, rootstocks, farm marketing and mechanical peach thinning. Special guests include peach specialist Dr. Greg Reighard of Clemson University, award-winning peach grower Robert Fralinger of Bridgeton, N.J., National Peach Council Director Kay Rentzel, MSU entomologist Dr. John Wise, and MSU plant pathologist Dr. George Sundin. Download the agenda for the full list of speakers and their topics and start time.

Attendees will be eligible for credits toward their recertification of their Michigan pesticide applicators license.

Deadline for early registration is Monday, Feb. 25. Registration is $30 per person or $25 for current Michigan Peach Sponsor members, with catered lunch included. Registrations mailed after Feb. 25 or at the door are $5 more per person. To pay in advance by check or money order, please download the registration form and mail with payment by Feb. 25. After this time, you may register at the door with check, money order or cash. Credit cards will not be accepted.

An important part of the meeting will be talks by Reighard and Chalmers Carr, South Carolina grower and owner of Titan Farms, that’ll focus on peach orchard mechanization and orchard design. Two relatively new blossom thinners, the tractor-mounted Darwin thinner and the Cinch handheld thinner, are changing how peach growers manage their plantings. The Darwin thinner has plastic strings along the length of a long revolving pole that remove blossoms, thereby reducing crop and increasing fruit size. This devise requires a flat, narrow peach canopy in order to do effective blossom -thinning. The Cinch, developed by Michigan native Phil Miller, uses the same concept, but with a shorter pole with a cluster of plastic tubes, the unit mounted on a hand-held, battery-powered drill.

Darwin Thinner Cinch Thinner
Left, The Darwin PT250 blossom thinner on a lift tractor can reach sides and tops of peach trees.
Right, The handheld Cinch thinner can be used to remove blossoms from hard-to-reach peach branches.

The Cinch, although slower and more labor intensive than the Darwin, is handy for blossom thinning more traditionally shaped open-center and central leader trees because the operator can reach inside the center of the tree, which the Darwin misses. At the Spring Peach Conference, Carr will describe the experiences and refinements made by his crew with the 18 Cinch thinners they used in 2012.

Also at the meeting, Reighard will talk about blossom thinning strategies and how to train peach orchards to take advantage of the Darwin string thinner. Current orchard systems in favor for use with the Darwin are the perpendicular Y and the quad tree, both systems with scaffolds tilted into the drive row. The tricky aspect of the Y and the quad trees is training the trees to produce scaffolds at the proper height and orientation. Poor quality, slow growing trees are a big problem for producing Y and quad trees. Typically, the newly planted tree is headed at 1.5 to 2.3 feet from the ground to get side branches. A poor tree will be reluctant to push enough limbs to get good ones in the right position.

For additional meeting information or assistance, contact the conference coordinator, Bill Shane, at 269-944-1477 ext. 205, or 269-208-1652 (cell).

The Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center, 1791 Hillandale Road, Benton Harbor, Mich., (view map), is located 2.5 miles east of I-94 exit 30 (Napier Avenue), approximately 4 miles southeast of Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, Mich. Numerous accommodations are available close by at I-94 exits 23, 27, 28 and 29.

This meeting is sponsored by the Michigan Peach Sponsors, MSU Extension and the Michigan Society for Horticultural Science.

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