Canopy Management to Improve Fresh Fruit

Ernie Neff Pruning

Shortening a long horizontal branch by cutting below the junction or intercalation between successive growth flushes, here located a centimeter or so to the right of the blades. This results in spaced lateral regrowth shoots on a shorter branch that does not touch the ground. (Photo credit: International Citrus Technologies Pty Ltd, Western Australia)

A new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) document, Management of Citrus Tree Canopies for Fresh-Fruit Production, addresses the principles of citrus pruning and canopy management. It tells how applying those principles can improve the quality and quantity of fresh fruit production in Florida.

Here is an excerpt from the document:

“Canopy management has three goals to attain or maintain optimal production. A tree is a factory with sunlight, water and fertilizer as inputs and fruit as the output. For best production, the tree needs these materials in the right quantity at the right time. In times of plenty and low need, it stores materials in roots, stems and leaves.

“As in any factory, greater efficiency is attained with shorter supply chains. Fruit at the end of long spindly branches may have ample light but are farther from water and minerals. The first goal of pruning is to help the tree produce fruit closer to the raw materials used to mature the fruit.

“Pruning is to improve light penetration (goal 1) and maintain a simple pattern of main branches to keep supply chains short (goal 2). Trees may overproduce where there are too many flowers resulting in too many fruit. The outcome is a bumper crop of small fruit that stresses the tree and results in alternate bearing cycles. Pruning is one approach to fruit thinning (goal 3). Maintaining these three goals will have several beneficial side effects, such as better spray penetration and easier harvesting at the end of the production cycle.”

About 10% of the Florida orange crop is utilized as fresh fruit. Much larger percentages of the state’s grapefruit and specialty fruit crops are for the fresh market.  

See the full UF/IFAS document here.

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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