[nafex] Apple Trees and Drought

Ed & Pat Fackler rocmdw at aye.net
Fri Sep 1 05:09:18 EDT 2000

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Doreen Howard wrote:

> “Apples are the most drought tolerant fruit, but plums and peaches easily
> develop problems with borers and bacterial blight when drought stressed.
> Strawberries need a modicum of water, bramble fruits can live well on the
> thirsty side.”
> My questions are:
> Wouldn’t an apple tree that receives no water fail to set fruit buds for the
> following year, or if they set buds, wouldn’t the fruit abort?  This is the
> case with peaches, I know from experience.
> Would a water-stressed apple tree drop its fruit before ripening?  Or does
> the stress improve flavor of the apple?

     My response-----------

     Firstly, Aker's comments most likely refer to an apple "seedling" tree,

     Secondly, depending on which rootstock the tree is grown upon greatly
influences so-called drought tolerance.  In our experience, in record drought
years here (1988 and 1999) trees on MM111 were not noticably effected in re:
fruit size as we always overthin (well, we try to anyway!).  However, sugers
(s.s.) were up perhaps 10%.  Also, in following years, flowering was less and
the quality of flowers were generally inferior (both in size and color
intensity) resulting in less fruit set.  There were exceptions, but this was a
general rule for those on MM111.
     One surprize was the performance of those on Bud. 9 (the dwarf-similar to
M9) from Russia.  I've a test row which is delibertately not irrigated.  And,
not only did it perform well during the 1999 drought, flower buds (spurs) the
following year were better than expected.

     And to comment on the dropping of fruit due to drought related stress, yes
possibly it is enhanced.  However, as is often the case, during dought
(accompanied by heat) mite populations simply explode (new generations about
every 5 days to 5 mins.!).  The resulting damage to leaves is really the prime
reason for preharvest drop, at least in my judgement.

     RE: stone fruits, actually the quality impoves with a moderate drought due
primarily to a reduction of brown rot incidence.

     Hope this helps.

Ed, So. Indiana, Heaven, etc.

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