[NAFEX] Plum Question

Jim Fruth jfruth at uslink.net
Thu Sep 21 09:31:35 EDT 2006


    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been considering grubbing out 
all of my plum trees because Curcullios ruin all the fruit.  After reading 
Donna's post, below, I've decided that eliminating plums from my orchard 
could spell disaster for the remaining fruits.  Donna, et. al., all talk 
about Curcullio ruining their apples and peaches whereas I have no such 
problem.  Perhaps, just perhaps, if I eliminated plum trees, Curcullios 
would start ruining my peaches and apples.  I think I'll keep the plums.

Jim Fruth
Brambleberry Farm
Pequot Lakes, MN  56472
(218)568-8483 [Store]
(218)831-7018 [My Cell]

Jim,
     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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