Friday, March 6, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Ladderless peach and nectarine orchards explored

UCD peach ladder1w

Farm workers must carry heavy ladders while harvesting a peach orchard because conventional peach and nectarine trees grow about 13 feet tall. "Ladderless" orchards are being designed by UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialists, designed to cut growers' labor costs by 50 percent or more and to improve worker safety. Gregory Urquiaga, UC Davis/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | August 15, 2014 |

Can shorter peach and nectarine trees reduce labor costs without sacrificing fruit quality and yield?

The answer may be developing soon at a 4-acre test orchard south of Fresno, where University of California researchers are planting semi-dwarfing rootstocks as part of a large, integrated experiment on virtually every aspect of peach and nectarine production.

“We’re designing ‘ladderless’ orchards, which have the potential to cut labor costs by 50 percent or more and improve worker safety,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Ted DeJong, a plant physiology professor at UC Davis. DeJong and Kevin Day, a Cooperative Extension farm adviser in Tulare County, are leading the unprecedented experiment.

Conventional peach and nectarine trees grow about 13 feet tall. Setting up, climbing and moving ladders to prune the trees and harvest fruit consumes about half the workday. Ladders are dangerous, too, which is why peach and nectarine growers pay about 40 percent more for workers’ compensation insurance than growers who work with more low-lying commodities, like grapes.

Developed by breeders at UCD, the new rootstocks will produce trees that grow about 7 or 8 feet tall and can be pruned and harvested from the ground. With the right orchard management — which Day and DeJong will test at their plots at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, near Fresno — the shorter trees could produce just as much high-quality fruit as their lofty kin.

“Ladderless orchards would be huge for our industry,” said Bill Chandler, who grows several varieties of peaches and nectarines on his 250-acre Chandler Farms in Selma. “There are so many costs associated with ladders that many growers are switching over to almonds just to stay in business. It costs me $1,400 an acre to thin our trees.”

Rod Milton, a fourth-generation stone-fruit grower, said he would welcome a ladderless system for the peaches and nectarines he grows in Reedley.

“Even with conventional rootstocks, I prune my trees so workers can take two fewer steps on the ladder come harvest time,” he said. “And the savings are huge, even with that. It’s important to keep farm work safe. And it’s important to keep farming viable, or else we’ll be getting all our produce from overseas.”

Shorter trees are just one of the elements of DeJong’s and Day’s experiment, which explores best practices for keeping peach and nectarine production economically and environmentally sustainable. Funded by the UC division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, their model orchard will integrate virtually every UC pomology advancement in the past 30 years.

The team will plant conventional, tall trees in one plot and cultivate them using standard irrigation, fertilization and pruning practices. On three other plots, they will grow shorter trees with new, “best-management” practices such as minimal pruning, using pressure chambers to measure a tree’s water needs, and applying compost and nitrogen sprays to minimize nutrient leaching and groundwater contamination.

They will compare fruit size and yields, canopy light interception, water and nitrate leaching, and more. Graduate students will have opportunities to get hands-on experience as the next generation of stone-fruit experts.

“We’re excited to take our experiments to the next level, to provide growers what they need to make good management decisions,” Day said.

Growers are excited, too.

“If it wasn’t for people like Ted DeJong and Kevin Day, I’m not sure there’d be any of us peach and nectarine growers left,” Chandler said. “They work so hard to make farming efficient.”

The team will begin planting in spring 2015 and should have preliminary data by 2016.

— UC Davis News

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Bay Area developers join Mace proposal

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Trial ordered in Davis child death case

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

    ‘Topping out': Sign a building beam at the Shrem Museum

    By Jeffrey Day | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Life after lawn: Fifty greens for shade

    By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Bob Dunning: There’s an exception to every rule

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

     
    Ukraine declares heavy weapons pullback from front line

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    NASA craft circling Ceres in first visit to dwarf planet

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    CHP car hit with bullet on highway

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    UCD police warn of sexual battery incident

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Got sun? Indoor herbs can thrive on windowsills

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

    Quick home improvements that raise your resale value

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    How can we know that the products we buy for our homes are safe?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Spring-clean your kitchen in five easy steps

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Museum brick sales to end this month

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

    Cabrillo Club plans membership dinner

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

     
    Dryers: Homes’ energy guzzlers just got greener

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

     
    UCD improving farming, food production with fewer pesticides

    By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: B6 | Gallery

    PSAs highlight area nonprofits

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

     
    Peripheral neuropathy support offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

    Workshop eyes creating peace through creative play

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

     
    Older adults will discuss conscious aging movement

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7Comments are off for this post

     
    Waldorf’s spring tea party doubles as open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Register online for Woodland rec classes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Pig out at Pig Day Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Porkers on display at Hattie Weber Museum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    St. John’s shows off cuisine at brunch

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    Seniors serious about fitness

    By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

     
    Some convicts don’t deserve parole hearings

    By Tom Elias | From Page: B4

    Here’s how to make college cheaper

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    Obama’s world is a dangerous place

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Dirty laundry on the company line

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B9

     
    .

    Sports

    Aggie men clinch Big West crown

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Marsh provides radio images of a ‘magical’ Aggie hoops season

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Blue Devil volleyballers cruise in home opener

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DHS girls track and field team reloads for 2015

    By Dylan Lee | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD women fall at UCR

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Sports briefs: Bella Vista slips past DHS softballers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

     
    Rec Report: Looking ahead to spring break

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

    What’s happening

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: B5

     
    Wineaux: A local diamond in the rough, revisited

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A9

    .

    Arts

    Steve Kiser’s work on display at Gallery 1855

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Tables available at Vinyl and Music Fair

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel': Second-rate

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

     
    Learn from experts at ‘Art of Painting’ conference

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    Tom Brousseau to visit ‘Live in the Loam’ on KDRT

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

     
    ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ auditions set

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

    Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela celebrate Mandela’s legacy

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Honey, we shrank the SUV — and Europe loves it

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, March 6, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B10