[NAFEX] Fwd: Blossom Thinning by a Plant Oil

Lon J. Rombough lonrom at hevanet.com
Tue Nov 27 17:40:24 EST 2007

Begin forwarded message:

From: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>
Date: November 23, 2007 5:54:49 AM PST
To: ARS News subscriber <lonrom at hevanet.com>
Subject: Blossom Thinning by a Plant Oil
Reply-To: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>

New Technique Thins Excess Blossoms and Boosts Tree Fruit Size

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Sharon Durham, (301) 504-1611, sharon.durham at ars.usda.gov
November 23, 2007
--View this report online, plus photos and related stories, at 

Too many flowers on peach and apple trees are not necessarily a good 
thing. If all of the flowers that formed in springtime were allowed to 
become fruit, the resulting crop may be large, but the fruit would be 
excessively small and unmarketable. Larger fruit commands a higher 
market price.

Today, U.S. fruit growers are spending up to $500 per acre to 
hand-remove excess blossoms, at a total annual cost of more than $156 
million. It's a tedious and time-consuming process--often used in peach 
production--and it, like chemical fruit thinning, may be ineffective as 
well as expensive.

That's why Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have been 
working on a more efficient way to reduce the number of blossoms on a 
tree to promote more profitable fruit. ARS is the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

At the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory in Kearneysville, 
W.Va., plant physiologist Thomas Tworkoski and horticulturist Stephen 
Miller have experimented with using an essential oil plant extract to 
reduce the number of blossoms on a tree, allowing more profitable fruit 
to grow. Adopting such an environmentally sound approach to blossom 
thinning would prevent limb breakage from excess fruit weight, while 
yielding the larger fruit many consumers prefer.

The new method involves spraying fruit trees with the natural plant 
product while the tree is in bloom. The plant extract damages the 
blossoms' reproductive tissues and prevents pollination and 
fertilization. Flowers are sufficiently affected shortly after 
treatment. The concentration of essential oil plant extract determines 
the degree of blossom fall. Tworkoski and Miller are fine-tuning the 
timing of application with the bloom cycles of various fruit trees 
including apples, peaches, pears and other high-value fruit trees.

Not only can this method meet the tree fruit industry's needs for 
reliable blossom thinners that are safe and environment-friendly, it 
may also be acceptable for use in organic fruit production. A patent 
application has been submitted for this technology, and ARS is looking 
for cooperative research partners to assist with small field trials.


This is one of the news reports that ARS Information distributes to 
subscribers on weekdays. Send feedback and questions to the ARS News 
Service at NewsService at ars.usda.gov.

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NewsService at ars.usda.gov | www.ars.usda.gov/news
Phone (301) 504-1636 | fax (301) 504-1486

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