2 questions for peach growers

franktank232(z5 WI)April 20, 2013

How long have you seen a peach tree live for or have you heard of a peach tree living for? I ask this because i've always got this vibe that they are short lived trees (say 10 years), but why? Pear trees can live for 400 years (or longer?) I've never heard of a tree living for such a short period without some disease or something killing it off...Is it canker?

Does "Flat Wonderful" get peach leaf curl? I just ask that because the leaves are so dark, almost purple vs a "normal" peach's green leaves...

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alan haigh

Commercial growers cull out peaches because they can become inefficient after 10 or 15 years of productivity. As I've posted, I have some 20 year plus peaches that are as productive as 10 years ago- depends on how they are managed and the variety.

If they don't succumb to canker they can live a long time- I've seen them make over 50, but I don't know how long they can keep putting out vigorous enough new wood to make the best peaches.

Longest lived trees tend to be slower growing although there are certainly exceptions, like red woods.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:46PM
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aphahn(6a CO)

When I lived in Chicago it was the borers that would eventually do in the trees. Here they seem happier, all except the whole getting the crop frozen off every few years thing that is.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:05PM
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alan haigh

A vigorously growing peach tree has pretty good resistance against borers but spray is sometimes necessary- especially with very young trees.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:15PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I know a guy here who had a 25+ year old peach tree. The tree died a couple years ago.

Around here soil drainage seems to be the single most limiting factor on peach tree longevity. I expect where you live Frank, harsh winters would be the biggest factor in shortening their life.

As Hman mentioned, commercial growers do generally pull them out early because of decreased productivity. For most of them, when economics show the increased productivity of new trees more than offsets the downtime loss from replanting, they replant the whole block.

As you know, peach trees come into production fairly rapidly, compared to something like pears, so down time isn't as big a factor, thus encouraging sooner replanting.

I've wondered myself how long a well cared for peach tree can remain reasonably productive from a backyard perspective. Most backyard growers give very little care to their peach tree. If a peach tree here was pruned regularly and sprayed annually for leaf curl and thinned properly so as not to stress the tree and mulched thoroughly to minimize weed competition and planted in a mound or well drained spot, I wonder if it wouldn't continue to produce for 50 years or more?

I have Flat Wonderful but spray it for leaf curl along with everything else, so I have no useful observations regarding the level of resistance this variety might have on its own.

Leaf curl resistance is generally a pretty big deal, so I'd be surprised that Rutgers wouldn't have mentioned any significant leaf curl resistance about this peach if it had any. It would be a good selling point for the peach tree if it did. PLC is not mentioned on their patent.

Here is a link that might be useful: Patent for H28-52-96270 (AKA Flat Wonderful)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:25PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Peach tree lifespan depends a lot on the growing area, soil, care, and climate. In the southeast peaches are taken out early by a pest complex referred to as peach tree short life. They begin to lose trees after a few years and I think 10 years is considered good for a commercial lifespan. Diseases spread by nematodes are a big part of the short life issue.

The best climate for long lived peach trees would be one of the moderate areas of California where it never gets too hot or cold. Combine that with a disease and nematode free, very well drained soil and you might get 40-50 years. A greenhouse with no rain would also be a plus. That should reduce or eliminate bacterial canker and cold injury.

Here is a link that might be useful: peach tree short life

This post was edited by fruitnut on Sat, Apr 20, 13 at 15:08

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 3:03PM
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You have covered quite a bit of ground with your questions. Yes, peach trees are considered "short-lived" trees. Of course there are variables that play into the exact life expectantcy. As for peach leaf curl...it can be a big problem for areas with cool/damp Springs...especially. My opinion: a fresh home-grown peach is worth the trouble.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 7:38PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Good clarification Fruitnut. I know PTSL is a pretty big issue further south. We don't have it here. The nematodes thought to cause PTSL don't like heavy clay soil that's common here.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 7:50PM
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alan haigh

Variety of peach is probably as important as other factors. Many of the older varieties send out new wood from old wood while modern ones often keep going further and further out with no renewal wood in trees interior.

Long stretches of wood without small wood and foliage seem more susceptible to canker and other attack. There is an advantage for wood closer to where photosynthesis is happening- that's why young trees with temporary branches down low develop better taper (thicker trunks down low)- the wood down there gets more energy to work with from nearby foliage.

In my experience, Madison and Harrow Diamond are at opposite ends of this tendency with Madison continuing to put out new shoots from old wood.

In a few years olpea will be in a better position than me to observe this as I assume he has rows of varieties next to rows of other varieties growing in the same conditions. It is not something I've ever read about and the comparisons I make are often about trees on different sites or just single trees of different varieties on the same site..

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 7:13AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

My main issue of course will be cold. I have no idea if we have nematode problems here, but i doubt it. We do have borers (i've lost young trees from them) and canker...

I also wonder if a seed grown tree should live longer then a grafted variety? I wonder if you grafted peach to say plum/apricot stock, if that would increase/decrease lifespan?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:15AM
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Franktank, peaches are fast growing weak trees with thin bark and are subject to a whole universe of borers, sap suckers, leaf eaters and fruit destroyers. The tree grows fast, bears young and makes lots of seeds. This allows it to continue as a species.

If you could prevent all the things that eat bark, cambium, leaves and fruit, it would still not make it to 50 years old. One reason is that they tend to set more fruit than they can reasonable hold. Wind twists the loaded branches off. Snow breaks the branches off.

The best chance for a long lived peach tree is to go to where the ancestral forms live (assuming some are still around), get one of them. The smaller number of small fruit will help the tree stand longer. Then all you have to worry about are the things that want to eat the tree.

My last peach tree is 24 years old. A cross section of the tree would show it to be a C. The middle rotted out years ago. I left it up because Chickadees made nests in it. I plan to severely prune it this year so that it doesn't twist to pieces this summer. It still makes peaches, I thin, but don't spray, so some years I only get small bites of good peach, some years I get whole peaches to eat. I depend on my buddy with an orchard to supply me with fruit.

There are a few cultivars that fruit in Z5. I have tasted fruit from peaches grown near Kingston,NY, in Zone 5. It is possible. Gill Farms was the name of the outfit that grew them. They have a web presence, maybe the son who has the farm now still grows them.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 2:46PM
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alan haigh

Kingston NY is no longer Z5 if 10 year trend continues and plenty of peach trees grow in that area- they are common in commercial orchards in Duchess and Ulster counties and have been for years and years.

Where peaches get hurt or killed is in Z5 is test winters. Takes about -28 to kill them I think, but the flowers get burned somewhere around -18. The year it got to -22 here I got no fruit but trees survived without injury.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 4:24PM
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Kingston is still in zone 5 according to Cornell.

Yes, peach trees are common in Ulster and Duchess Counties, but they don't fruit every year. Having known the Gills for years, and others who grow peach trees in that area, they have learned which varieties fruit more often. It is not uncommon for them to have a string of years with few or no crop. There is a strong market for local peaches (as you must know), that is why they continue to plant them. The insect pressure doesn't seem as great either, so trees in off years don't need the care they take with them here in the Mid-Atlantic. Around here, the cost of maintaining the tree with no crop is almost the same whether you get something to sell or not.

I'm next door to Adams County, PA, and I too have seen the years when low temps ruined the crop. Usually it is a late frost during or just after bloom. Bloom time a day before or after the frost often determines if you get a crop or not. Lows of -18F are something we haven't had for a decade or more.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 7:35PM
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aphahn(6a CO)

The peaches I grew in Chicago were all seedlings, and they were not long lived. This probably speaks to one of harvestman's points about borers. The seedlings were from random seeds, and probably not even close to being resistant to the pressures there. So once other issues caught up to them, it didn't take much for the borers to finish them off.

I do grow a red leafed peach (from seed) that is reputed to be longer lived than other peaches, but the fruit is not much to write home about. Golf ball sized, sweet, not much flavor.

Also, I have some peaches on krymsk 1 (a plum rootstock) but I doubt it will contribute to longevity. It does not take much to water stress it and it doesn't really offer any resistance to disease over peach roots. The attraction is dwarfing and increased fruit size.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:11AM
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alan haigh

I manage a small commercial orchard (Red Truck Farm) across the river in Hyde Park- believe me temps haven't gone much below zero in ten years. Call anyone involved in guiding commercial fruit production in Cornell and I'm confident they will support what I've written, whatever is in older charts. I manage peach trees all over those hills where it's colder than Kingston.

Those counties, most orchards probably get peaches at least 3 out of 4 years- traditionally apple crops were only lost maybe one in 20. Now Cornell is suggesting cold protection systems may be be economically viable in the Hud Valley because of crazy weather brought about by climate change, meaning increasing crop loss to late frost, not cold winters.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 6:08AM
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I grow Reliance peach here is SE WI. My original tree lasted 11 years. I cut it down this spring. It was great
years 4-8 then started to decline. I have heard of similar
results around here with this variety from others who grow it. I have two more planted that are bearing fine. They are 5 years old and 6 years old currently.
One old-timer in my area told me that it is best to plant peaches every 4 years so when the old one declines the
new one is just bearing well.

Perhaps this info just pertains to Reliance as I have not
yet tried Contender here. Or pehaps it is a pruning issue. Just reporting my observations as mine got lots of
dead wood after year 8 and even with pruning I could not
stumulate enough new growth to regenerate the tree well.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 11:53AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


I think what's happening with your Reliance is the cumulative effects of cold injury. With cold it's not just the big hits that completely kill the tree. It's lots of little damage here and there that predispose the tree to things like bacterial canker. Read the link I posted above about PTSL. Even in South Carolina and Georgia cold injury contributes to reduced life span of peach trees.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:29PM
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