[NAFEX] [SPAM] Plum Question

Donna &/or Kieran holycow at cookeville.com
Wed Sep 20 17:42:20 EDT 2006

Jim wrote:
"In a normal year, my plums are riddled with Plum Curcullio scars.  This
year, I have no plums on my trees so I harvested from wild stands.  Some
plum stands had no Curcullio at all and others were only slightly infected.
Is this normal?  Does this happen in your areas too?"

     I saw the opposite in east Tennessee, that curculio ate all the native 
plums but the Japanese varieties had very little damage.  One tree never got 
any fruit past the hard green stage.  We were on a south facing slope, and I 
wonder if it made the bugs more active than if we'd been on a cooler north 
slope.  In 1986 and 87 we had late spring freezes, so in 1988 there were 
very few curculio left, and we had a good crop of peaches.  Presumably the 
plums did better that year too.
    POMONA reprinted an article I found in an old book, titled "Who Stole 
the Plums?"  The author told about a small orchard of red plums that lived 
out their lives and died without ripening any fruit, and a second orchard of 
blue plums that replaced them and did no better.  He described the effects 
of curculio on the fruit, first the little ones falling and then the larger 
ones.  His family gave up on them, fenced the orchard and put some calves 
and chickens in it.  The very first year they did that the trees cropped 
abundantly.  His reasoning was that when the calves rubbed on the trees, the 
weevils dropped and the chickens picked them up.  Also, the grubs are 
vulnerable after the fruit falls, and probably again just before they are 
adults ready to fly.  I don't know if they dig down into the ground at all, 
a scratching chicken might find them just below the surface.  I have kicked 
myself for years for not putting all my stone fruits together in a grid so I 
could run chickens under them.  But back to your question.  Are there many 
ground birds up in your area?  Grouse, quail, pheasants, that sort of thing, 
and is it possible that the wild thickets sheltered such birds?  I'd think 
also that if every single dropped fruit was scarfed up by something, even 
cattle or deer, that the curculio would hard pressed to survive digestion. 
Now that I think of it, we had friends whose wild chickasaw plums cropped 
well whenever the spring frosts let them, and those trees were in a field 
with goats and chickens.  Fay had been out day after day looking for plums 
to drop and hadn't seen any yet.  She was quite puzzled about it.  The goats 
were lying around the barn chewing their cud, and she saw one of them spit 
something out.  She looked and saw it was a plum pit, and then realized the 
barn was littered with them.  So they kept the goats locked up every morning 
till they'd collected plums.  Mind you, the presence of goats and chickens 
running loose on the place we were renting did nothing to improve the 
success of the existing plum trees.
    Wild plum thickets hardly seem to crop at all in Tennessee anymore, but 
old people talk about how they used to pick lots of wild plums.  I pass 3 
plum thickets on my way to work, and one year in the last 12 years, one of 
those thickets had some plums on them.  I have 2 native seedlings, 12 years 
old, from two trees in local backyards, but it looks like the only way to 
get any fruit fit to eat will be to spray them.  The few fruit to ripen are 
completely riddled with curculio.  The AU selections don't do much better. 
The myrobalans from Russia bloom too early, but the few that don't freeze 
seem to beat the curculios.  The European plums don't seem to grow at all, I 
wonder if they suffer from scab?    Donna 

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