Despite being a complete novice to pruning my fruit trees I feel I have a pretty good understanding of how things work. One thing that is off my radar, however, is the use of stub cuts (i.e. cutting a branch short to 2-3 buds, generally no more than a couple inches). I realize that they can be used to renew vegetative growth in grapes and stone fruit, but recently I have seen videos of people using stub cuts to encourage fruiting buds. Here is an example in Asian pears: Pruning Nashi Pears to induce fruiting buds and contain heights - YouTube I also saw a video where stub pruning was used to encourage fruiting in cherry trees.
In contrast to those videos, I have come across some written pruning tutorials that state to never stub cut (e.g. Oregon State University) without detailing why they take that stance.
I have several pruning books and stub cuts are largely ignored. To the point: Does anyone stub cut to promote fruit buds? If so, which fruit types do you utilize this type of cut? Why do most Ag Colleges recommend against stub cuts? Personal anecdotes are welcome! Thanks.
Fruiting buds on the main trunk can be a double edged sword. Fireblight attacks only tissue that is growing eg. flowering buds grow very quickly. If the bacteria that we call fireblight is in the area and the pollinators are carrying it from bloom to bloom those blooms on the trunk allow the bacteria to enter directly into the trunk and quickly travel to the roots killing the tree. Since I raise mostly pears I’m mostly referring to pears but apples and other things can be impacted as well and maybe more so in some cases. In the video he is trimming off a lot of growth which causes new vegetative growth which is another thing that attracts fireblight. In areas which don’t have a huge fireblight problem this is likely a great technique but in my area I would be indirectly asking for the kind of trouble I don’t want or need. The reason why the tree in the video has so much one year old growth is because he pruned it to much the previous year. If you noticed that new wood is all void of pear fruit buds. He knows how to prune but he is the type of guy I want in my local scion club.
The reason for the controversy is that it is too labor intensive and doesn’t offer much payoff for commercial fruit production- it is a technique developed for espalier fruit trees, I don’t recommend it for plums- the more traditional method for getting them to fruit earlier is to “festoon” branches, which simply means pulling them below horizontal. This actually works for most fruit species, but it does tend to inspire a lot of water sprouts above the bend which need to be summer pruned to insure fruiting. Most J. plum varieties don’t need encouragement to fruit young but E plums tend ton be a different story.
In commercial production the idea is to never use stub cuts into annual wood- at least until trees are in production, and after that, why would you? It requires repetitive cuts during the season- at least 3, to get a fruiting response instead of a vegetative one. I frequently cut into 2-year wood either behind the first bud of an annual shoot or a bit further back when the 2 year has lots of flower buds but the annual shoot may create excessive shading. The flower buds pull the energy so no vegetative response occurs.
Personally, I would not try this in the deep south on much of anything but muscadines for the reasons offered by Clark. In a hot and humid climate you are just asking for disease issues by pruning so much. Another issue with pears and plums is that if you get hit by a late frost, the upper parts of a largeish tree might provide just enough protection for the lower parts so that you don’t loose the whole crop.
I don’t think so- plants react as though they are being fed on and the first response is to try to grow above the browse line- especially with dormant cuts- it inspires the production of immature wood . If a single cut works it probably means the shoot was going to develop flowers anyway. But what species are we speaking of and what varieties?
You are the only person with a lot of experience with fruit plants that I’ve ever heard make that claim and I’ve often heard and observed the opposite. All I do for 6-7 months of the year is prune fruit trees and observe the results all 12 months.
What species are you talking about? The reason I’m doubtful is that I can’t see how weather would change the response that much, although I believe it’s possible. Can you provide any supportive literature, like an extension guideline? If only one dormant cut did the trick it would be useful in commercial production, so I would expect them to be aware of it at UC Davis. I guess it doesn’t really matter since almost no other forum members grow in that area.
@clarkinks Thanks for weighing both the pros and cons. This question was initially asked as more of a theoretical one, not seeing an immediate need to use stub cuts. Now, however, you have me wondering if I should clip the (what appears to be) fruiting spurs from the trunk of one of my Asian pears going into its third leaf. I was pretty excited about them, hoping that I might get a sample of fruit this year! I do not really know how much risk there is locally for fireblight, but I am a minimalist when it comes to fertilizing.
I have been reading an old book on the Lorette system of pruning, they seem to do the stub cuts to promote fruit growth and to keep the tree smaller. I don’t know enough about pruning to asses if it would work for me, but I did apply it last year to two trees I thought I could practice on. The theory is that when the cuts are done in June, rather than in winter, there is not very much suckering. You may need one more cut later in the summer. I did the first cuts and did not need to do another, but fruit tree growth is considerably slower up here.
@Richard Thank you for your perspective. I looked at the Stanford Martin pruning guide after you scanned that page. There was very little written about stub pruning overall, but the section on pruning apples was clear that stub pruning should be avoided to prevent rot.
This might be useful for me, I am trying to grow some of my plums in a shelter and if I can get fruit by pruning them and keeping them smaller, they will be easier to cover for the winter. I saved the picture, is that OK with you?
One I do with my pears which might help some is hit them with coper before they bloom, again during bloom and then a last time after bloom or as its ending. Obviously, a commercial grower probably can’t do this much spraying on account of labor cost. But this is all the spraying I plan to do this year on the pears, unless a problem emerges of course. Note, all my varieties are supposedly very fire blight resistant, but that’s no guarantee. February is looking to be warm and wet this year. That’s a scary combination with respect to fire blight on pears and stem canker on plums. God bless.
Thanks @clarkinks. In light of some of the pictures that you linked me to, I think it would be a good idea to prune away the fruiting buds on the Yoinashi pear. At 2 feet from the ground, that would not leave me with too much tree if it were inflicted with FB.
I hit them with copper before and after but not during since copper is a heavy metal. It’s highly effective though when I need to I resort to antibiotic spray. Hopefully this is not a fireblight year.