Cause of peach orchard death?

Hi,

I had about 30 peach trees of many varieties and nearly all of them died this winter in upstate NY zone 6. They are on an exposed hill but survived the last several years with no issue. We did have some very heavy wind storms this winter, and I did notice some desiccated wood on some varieties. Although I thought trees did not feel wind chill?

Even my Contender, which is supposed to be the hardiest, died, but Baby Crawford and Red Baron and Mericrest survived. I’m confused that Contender died if it was a cold issue.

I didn’t notice any sort of sap leaking nor had any foliar diseases the previous summer. What could have caused so many trees to die?

Some look like they wanted to leaf out but gave up and died, whereas others never sprouted at all.

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There are plenty of dead fruit trees around down here 30 miles north of NYC as well. I think it was the result of 19 degrees in late March. Damage may have been exacerbated here by years of wet weather driving roots closer to the surface or weakening cells by bloating them with water making them explode when turned to ice. If it was cambium and not roots the injuries should be obvious on the trunks. I’m not sure if sap would always be present or not but recollection tells me that such injuries do not always cause sap bleed. Indentated bark is the symptom to look for.

Usually we can only guess, but I’m very sorry for your loss. Were your tree roots insulated with mulch?

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Appreciate your response. I don’t mulch but I have Dewitt sunbelt fabric down under the tree rows. I hope to replace the trees next year but curious how to prevent losses in the future. I honestly see no damage to the trees they just didn’t leaf out. Some of my more established varieties survived with no issue but also 1 year old survived so it was entirely random. But also some of my largest died, so there’s no trend that I can see. I also randomly lost some bush cherries (Jan, Joel) and a Nanking cherry. All hardy stuff so not sure what happened last winter.

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I’ve noticed that the knitted fabric in particular tends to somehow damage drainage and bring roots closer to the surface. Even when covered with wood mulch there seems to be a correlation between it and winter of spring freeze kill. Not sure, but the coincidence or correlation has been repetitive here.

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I’ve not experienced massive peach tree loss you’ve described. But I have had significant loss on trees pruned really hard in early spring or during late fall/winter. This has almost always been on young trees. As mentioned sometimes spring freeze kill can be as bad as winter kill, in my experience.

Were the trees on some unusual rootstock?

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Mostly Lovell. I also was late pruning this year and didn’t prune until right when it bloomed, but they were already dead before that. I lost some seedless grapes too, first year I lost random things but peaches hit the hardest. No late freezes this spring either I have a tiny microclimate on the lake. Is there a canker or something that can sweep through undetected? I did have some gummosis but I can’t tell the difference between that and something more concerning. It’s just bizarre considering established trees will die and not a tiny 1 year old if it was wind or cold.

Oh well. Try try again, just gets expensive considering the cost of trees these days!

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It is a puzzle. I can’t imagine it would be canker, unless you had some really obvious signs of bad canker.

There isn’t any chance herbicide could be involved, is there?

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None :woman_shrugging:

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Well, I guess I pretty much give up. I think it’s fair to say a mass death of peach trees is climate/stress related in most cases. Some type of sharp difference in low temps is generally the thing.

You might consider taking some pics of your plantings which died, if you would like to pursue further. Sometimes it’s hard for a person to describe everything, but pictures reveal more to folks who have experience with the species.

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I believe it is from the wind storms. I noticed mine were looking pretty bad this year and we has some pretty severe winter wind storms this last winter as well.
There was an orchard about 10 miles from me that years ago had a 10 acre area of peach trees. During one winter we had a blizzard and severe winter winds off and on for that entire winter. The next year the peach trees were horrible looking any many were either dead that next year or within two years they were basically ruined.
So sorry you lost so many wonderful peach trees.

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This is the only thing I can think of. Maybe some varieties are more resistant, but even Contender died. I noticed some large bark splits on the trunk of some of my other fruit varieties, plum and apricot. I can see the cambium layer exposed now under these splits. Hopefully that won’t get diseased later. Not sure what that’s from.

Fortunately peaches produce quickly! I thought plants didn’t feel wind chill?

Thanks for the responses everyone.

I fell your pain. In my home orchard I had 53 Peach and Nectarines trees before this crazy freezing spring season. I now have 40 dead Peach and Nectarine and a couple more that may not make it. They were on several different rootstocks including Guardian, Lovell, Starks Redleaf, Citation, Nemaguard and some self grown seedlings. Even lost my Redhavens. My best performer was and is,( low chill) Spice Zee Nectaplum and Arctic Star Nectarine. I have 4 trees of each and all came through without apparent damage and set a very good crop. A coulpe of Texas A&M Nectarines and Lorings seems to be fine but little fruit. Also, lost a dozen or so of 2-3 year old plum trees. From here, it’s been a tough season in the orchard.

Sorry to hear about this.

This can be related to a unseasonable warming spell followed by a sudden and extreme drop in temperatures. Maybe that was part of the problem with the peaches.

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On that note, I watch this couple on YouTube who live in The Finger Lakes area. They planted something like 60k flower bulbs last fall and in their video a week or so ago a ton of their bulbs sprouted and bloomed and then got buried in a couple feet of snow that did most all of the blooms in. Having a lingering deep freeze after a lingering thaw is definitely a disruption if not a downright disaster.

Oh wow. That’s horrible! The worst is removing the trunks of the full size trees to replant. Interesting that Arctic Star survived, I’ve lost that one twice on years little else was effected. Just planted it again this spring though :nerd_face:

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I cannot believe how timely this thread is. I’ve meaning for weeks to make one about my own problem this year. I still want to explain my situation briefly (can I do briefly?) to see if anyone helps and if its the same thing that happened to OP.

I lost about 2-3 FULL SIZED peach trees this year, but had about 8 more that suffered a loss of 60% or more of existing wood. Again, everything I lost was old wood on adult trees (6-11 year old peach trees). What happened to mine was that almost all the really large, established limbs died- just never woke up this spring. However, in all but 3 of them, younger, newer wood survived and did pretty well. So what my peach trees looked like was the center had good, healthy, green leaves that came out and have grown normally, but all the large limbs on the outside - all the way around the trees- is dead. So only about 35% of these mature trees survived.

I’ve never, ever suffered this kind of loss. There is quite a bit of cracking on that old, dead wood. Winter here was quite mild, though we did have one night where it got down to about 5 degrees (which isn’t extreme). I’m at a complete loss.

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You mentioned this twice. An object at any given temperature is going to exchange heat into the air based on its temperature, pressure and humidity, at whatever rate the physics determined. Air in motion is going to exchange heat faster. Wind chill is the temperature your heat is exchanging at if it where still air, at the point of contact its that cold regardless of plant or human.

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There are always several possible variables in play, but I’m pretty sure my main problem this year was 19 degrees in late March. Now another season this may not have been a problem and the reason it was this one is not clear in terms of warm weather preceding it- cold was pretty consistent and we didn’t have any thing warm and long enough to help predict the killing of those 3 cherry trees, destroying the stonefruit crop, besides lightly spaced peaches, freeze damage on most of the pear leaves and only a crop on one of two Harrow Sweets. Apples are very, very light with only late flowering varieties having crop.

The hard freeze came when only apricots against my house’s walls had some open flowers (and they have some fruit) and Japanese plums were barely showing green. Bud swell of peaches showed no color- I’ve seen buds as big in February.

The fact is that after taking care of fruit trees for 55 years- half of that as my full time profession, mother nature still loves making me feel like a fool. Every week something happens in the orchards that defy logic.

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We didn’t have any late freezes here and all my fruit trees have the largest set I’ve ever seen on them, including apricots. But still wiped out most of my peach trees. This is an expensive hobby for sure…

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Even though you are in my state your might as well be in a different country up there. I don’t know what your soil and drainage is like or how wet your weather was, going into late fall and early spring, but peaches are not very tolerant of wet feet.

I manage over 100 orchards with 10 to over 100 trees but I’ve never experienced that kind of mortality, no where near. I lost a few very young peach trees once from pruning them before an unexpected extreme drop of temps in late winter. There would seem to need to be a very clear reason for your catastrophe. The only other instances of such a loss I know of has been from rabbits or pine voles. And I’m sure that’s not your problem- pine voles don’t favor peach roots and rabbit damage is obvious.