[Fwd: [nafex] Apple Trees and Drought]

Doreen Howard doreenh at ticon.net
Fri Sep 1 21:27:35 EDT 2000

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Joe & Ed,
Thanks so much for both of your comments.  Makes me think that what seemed
simple  "Apple trees are the most drought tolerant," is much more complex.
But, then the good stuff is never easy.  I've deduced from both of you that
an apple tree can go without water in summer (after the first six weeks of
growth) and still produce a good tasting fruit.  But, the next season's crop
may be sacrificed.  Would you agree with my simplistic condensation?  I have
to get simple, because I not writing for a NAFEX type audience.
Thanks again,
Doreen Howard

-----Original Message-----
From: jhecksel at voyager.net <jhecksel at voyager.net>
To: Doreen Howard <doreenh at ticon.net>
Date: Friday, September 01, 2000 4:17 PM
Subject: [Fwd: [nafex] Apple Trees and Drought]

>Hi Doreen:
>Doreen Howard wrote:
>> I’m writing an article on how to cope with drought.  It’s the second part
>> a 2-part series.  The first part was on how to prepare for drought.  I
>> across the following statement by Scott Aker of the U.S. National
>> in Washington D.C. while doing research.  Would the apple growers on this
>> list please comment on the correctness of the statement?  Also, anyone
>> who grows any of the fruits mentioned in the statement, please comment.
>> “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
>> following year, or if they set buds, wouldn’t the fruit abort?  This is
>> case with peaches, I know from experience.
>I think, but am not sure, that drought stress is one of the things that can
>nudge apples toward biennial bearing.  One of the things that drought does
>that it limits N uptake.  Biennial bearing occurs when the nutritional
>the Carb/N ratio,of the buds oscillate between too much carbohydrates
>fruiting buds) and too much N (mostly vegetative buds).
>> Would a water-stressed apple tree drop its fruit before ripening?  Or
>> the stress improve flavor of the apple?
>I agree with Ed.  Drought stress increase soluble solids.  Heavy irrigation
>increases size of fruit but it is simply due to additional water.
>To over simplify:  Drought the six weeks following bloom is devestating.  I
>the shoots to extend 8" to 15" and the leaves to jump out there and start
>photosynthesizing.  Drought the six weeks prior to harvest decrease size
>result in better flavor IMHO.  Commercial guys irrigate through this period
>because they take a real beating on price if the apples do not size well.
>Little sidebar:  It used to be possible to color sort McIntosh by size.
>color and flavor were highly correlated because the fruit from the outside
>the canopy had more carbohydrates (read, sugar and sweetness), size and
>The quality of the fruit is highly dependent on the amount of  sunlight
that is
>available to the apple's feeder leaves.  The packer could sort the fruit by
>(which was easy to do with the mechanical expertise of the day) and the
>could confidently choose a "beautiful" piece of fruit and be confident that
>flavor (quality) would match.  I believe that this "coherence" in quality
>resulted in customers buying more fruit because they could buy fruit with
>confidence:  Wysiwyg, What you saw is what you got.  (There are
>biologist who contend that the size/color/quality bundle is more than
>conditioning....that it is something we evolved to prefer over thousands of
>Three things have happened:
>1.) Size controlling rootstock result in smaller canopies.  The smaller
>are well penetrated by sunlight.  Darned little fruit is produced that is
>starved for carbohydrates.  This is a good thing.
>2.)Modern, "improved" selections color well regardless of location in
>You can make a compelling argument that humans evolved (or were
conditioned) to
>desire large, highly colored fruit because it had the most calories and
>taste.  Modern agribusiness exploited this bias with "red" sports of common
>cultivars.  Modern agribusiness cannot afford a high cull-rate so it is no
>longer possible to select for flavor based on size or color.  An additional
>factor is that some fruit is picked before it need be due to the logistical
>difficulties of having the right number of pickers to harvest at the rate
>is optimal for flavor.  This is a bad thing.
>3.)The low prices paid for agricultural commodites result in labor saving
>methods.  One of the labor saving methods is to use "hedgers" to prune
>trees.  Manual pruning results in a very open, well lighted (and dried)
>structure.  One of the old rules of thumb was that you should be able to
throw a
>cat through the canopy (or a bushel basket if a willing cat cannot be
>Hedgers result in a canopy that is dense at the perimeter and a dimly lit
>interior.  Apples set in the interior of a mechanically pruned tree are
>inferior to those from a manually pruned tree.
>As a consequence, many modern consumers are loath to buy fruit.  Too many
>been burned by buying a beautiful apple that tasted like a billard ball.
>American consumer has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for modest but
>predictable quality (McDonalds, Budweiser stand up) for hit or miss
>> I thought that berry canes (brambles) need a certain amount of water to
>> maintain and if they don’t get the water, the roots die.  Am I wrong?
>My raspberries struggle on my drier sites.  I do not know if it is due to
>nutrient availability or need for water.
>> Thanks in advance for answers.  If I quote you, I’ll make sure you get a
>> copy of the Gardener’s Companion in which this article will appear on
>> 12, 2001.
>> Doreen Howard
>Gotta run.  Bobby has a poopy diaper.
>I have Purple Finches chowing down on my Priscilla apples outside the
>Gotta go,         Joe

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