Mysteries in fruit growing

I’ve been doing a whirlwind tour of orchards lately as I rush to get fruit thinned and set up coon and squirrel baffles. I always find it fascinating and baffling how much contrast there can be in seemingly similar sites with identical clones growing only a few miles apart.

Fruit set was exceptionally heavy this year, but not everywhere, which is one thing to ponder. But I was at one site last week where a 20 year old Shiro plum has yet to bear a heavy crop. A Methely 50 feet away from it usually sets like continuous bunches of grapes along the entire branch structure. I rake most of the fruit off with a hand before I even begin selective thinning.

This year the Shiro there set less than half the crop I would have thinned it to which is an improvement over previous years (also nice not to have to thin). Apples and pears at the site were all heavily set with fruit as were the peaches as they always are.

The contrasting Shiro at the nearby site had the kind of crop I only expect from Methely- like I said, continuous bunches where I seem to need to remove 98% of the fruit.

Both sites receive the same care and trees are similarly healthy and vigorous. If there was an otherwise invisible nutritional issue that could create such a difference I could look into that, perhaps, some deficient micronutrient- but why would the Methely be unaffected by it - the soil is visually identical in this field. It is the natural soil and wasn’t trucked in.

I’m not posting this to receive other people’s theories so much as to show an example of how different sites often have mysteriously contrasting results. I’ve had 15 years to come up with my own theories in this case and none really fit. I experience similar contrasting results site to site on a regular basis.

When you evaluate the productivity or even the flavor of your own trees, don’t assume they would produce the same results in the field down the road.


I’m going to start a thread called the mysteries of child rearing. I have two kids, I raised them exactly the same. One is productive, the other isn’t.


I’m always amazed how much the fruit of any one variety varies from tree to tree or even on the same tree. Differences are huge this yr between trees because some are well established and others aren’t. People try one fruit and think all others of that variety will be identical forever. Wrong!!! And that doesn’t even consider differences due to degree of ripeness.

Yes, what I was alluding to. It sucks as you might not try a cultivar because the one you had didn’t produce, and it was more that specific tree, than the cultivar or species.

Though it is stranger with fruit trees of the same cultivar, than it is with kids as there is theoretically uniform DNA with the trees (sports aside). Assuming that the children aren’t twins.

The whole point is that the fruit trees I’m discussing are clones growing in nearly identical situations as Bob points out- the charm of the child comparison notwithstanding.

DNA is probably about 50% of human personality. Research seems to indicate that parenting has very little influence on outcomes beyond the neighborhood the parents bring their children into.

It has a great deal more to do with peers than parents, contrary to the orthodoxy of the child rearing industrial complex and what most parents want to believe. Personally, I’m relieved that my influence isn’t all that significant and I can enjoy my 23 year old son’s companionship without an excessive sense of responsibility for his destiny.

But then, this is all for a completely different forum, right Drew?

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differences may well be blamed on some yet unidentified disease-- of the rootstock, or of the scion, or of both. Some insect or vermin may have transmitted such disease by chance, hence the difference.

we have been to the moon and back, we have split the atom, and we’ve engineered transmission of data ~10,000 times faster than the speed of light, but we’ve yet to find a cure for the common cold, and unable to identify each and every ‘cultivar’ of the common cold/flu, which seems to evolve under our noses (and in our noses).

I’m pretty sure that all our current commercial data transmission is constrained by the speed of light. I think there is research underway to exploit paired particles (I don’t remember the proper term for it) where when you change one, it’s pair changes too, even when moved far away. But I’m not sure how far that has gotten.


This conversation is going into warp drive!

Fruit trees, gentleman, fruit trees. Keep your focus here.


You helped educate most of these posters so does that make you their parent? You can just enjoy their company without the excessive sense of responsibility of their outcome. This was intended to be funny but I’m not sure I got the delivery right. Bill


you and MES11 know it then. “Spooky action from a distance” is real, but still quite mysterious. Researchers have recently created ultra-basic data transmission using the technology. It is an exciting field, no doubt, and would love to post plenty links about it, but we have to stick to the topic re: fruit trees.

So yes, that endeavor seems to be easier to peruse once all the math has been crunched. It is a good thing, of course, BUT the cure for or the definitive prevention of cancer, or flu, or the common cold are all languishing. So the not-so deadly disease/s transmitted by some random vermin vector, to some, but not all, of our fruit trees will sadly be a mystery for quite a while. In FL, millions of acres of citrus groves are randomly being afflicted with greening disease. Researchers seem to have isolated the bacterium responsible and the vector bug, but so far, no cure or preventive measure.

Are there viruses that actually reduce a plants ability to set fruit without affecting the quality of the fruit that it does set and causes absolutely no visible symptoms besides said lack of fruit?

Seems unlikely to me. Reminds me of my psychologist father suggesting most illness was the result of emotional problems or the chiropractor that attributes every health issue to a spine in need of adjustment.

If fruit tree virus’ or bacteria, or fungi (left untreated cannot be good), and will most likely hurt the tree and impede fruiting; like not pulling a bad tooth. If left alone it will hurt the body not just the mouth.

some viruses, such as peanut stunt virus, will reduce growth and production in peanut plants, but not necessarily affecting the quality of peanut pods, and not necessarily result in change in appearance other than being slow-growing and/or having poor production of peanuts. Peanut pods with said virus bear edible seeds, but may not be different from peanuts that are virus-free.
As i type this, viruses are evolving either into more wicked variants, or less-damaging variants which do not necessarily kill the infected plants, but instead simply reduce their productivity with no other overt symptoms. Biological viruses are as insidious as computer viruses. They operate in similar fashion, as both introduce malicious codes which modify the machinery of the living thing/computer but not necessarily shut them down. Molds, fungi, and bacteria are all evolving too, in all manner of permutations-- far beyond the logistics of current ‘modern’ humans.

forgot to add, we only ‘know’ ~50% of any plant or tree, as the other 50% is underground. Not sure where you’re at Alan, but random colonies of voles, moles, gophers, and maybe some underground sapsuckers may be the cause/s of poor fruit production.

as for other possible causes, the following links–among many we could find online-- may shed some light(or ambiguity, for that matter)re: the multitudes of peach/plum viral maladies. Sadly, none of which present definitively, and the severity varies from mild to severe.

This (Rio Oso Gem) isn’t exactly what you are asking about, but it is close in that “latent mosaic virus” “reduces vigor but increases productivity”. It isn’t such a stretch to see a virus reduce productivity instead of vigor.

I checked into it and “quantum entanglement” was the term I was trying to recall. But it doesn’t sound like this can be used to actually transmit information, as the up/down spin is random. So while the related particle instantly gets the counter spin, it isn’t actually communicating any information. I’ll ask my father (HS physics teacher) about this. I was reading the (rather long) Wikipedia article and thought I was doing OK until it got to the mathematical description, at which point my eyes glazed over and I tabbed back to the fruit forum…


it could transmit information, quite magically, in fact! It was the perpetual ‘thorn’ on einstein’s side, as he was skeptical about it.
National Geographic

I did mention that I wasn’t really putting this out to get suggestions on causation- to solve a single mystery in the wide range of such occurrences one encounters when growing fruit or during most any other intimate interaction with nature…

The fact that the issue in the tree I used as an example could conceivably be the result of viral infection is virtually meaningless- just something to throw out there to put order in the universe, being that it won’t be proven or disproven and certainly can’t be treated beyond removal of the tree.

No such virus has yet to be discovered and the examples of viruses provided here create physical clues that explain their affect on bearing. Of course a peach with reduced vegetative vigor might become more productive. If the Shiro in question had surprising vigor I might buy into this.

There is likely a scientific explanation for everything in the universe (or is it universes?) but the point I’m trying to make is that no matter how much time you spend with them, fruit trees defy clear, understandable boundaries in their behavior.

A banal observation when you break it down, I admit, but something most fruit growers can probably relate to.

A point within the point is that you should be somewhat wary of evaluations of any given cultivar based on experiences of a grower with a single tree at a single site. Try to get multiple sources.

Hell, I grow fruit trees at a hundred sites, but my evaluations are highly suspect anyway (even as a regional guide) because my evaluations are highly tilted towards varieties that happen to excel in my own orchard.

As far as the reluctant Shiro, my plan is to graft other varieties on the tree. If the tree is infected with a virus that reduces fruiting it would likely infect the closely related varieties I attach to the tree. I would bet dollars to nickels that the added varieties will bear normally and wouldn’t be surprised if the Shiro becomes a heavy bearer as a result. Plums love company.

In other words, now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’m opting for some issue with pollination as the Shiro in question behaves like a tree without cross pollination. If I’m right, I will still be devoid of an explanation of why the Methely isn’t providing that. Probably the Methely is infected with a virus!