The nectarine mystery

Nectraines are legendary for setting poorly in the Phoenix valley while peaches set incedibly reliably. The only explaination ive heard offered is that its a result of thrip damage. Does this sound plausible? Its not that they abort, they just never set at all. Maybe 2% of flower buds set fruit, some years not at all. Arizona with its dry climate has so few bugs that I discount the thrip issue. I see california backyard growers setting nectrarines without fuss, and they generally have far more insect issues than we do. So what gives? Any ideas? If this cant be figured out all our nectarines are in danger of being top worked over to peaches soon.

We have:
Double Delight
Desert Delight
Arctic Fantasy
Desert Dawn
Arctic Star


Sounds like a mission for Nectarman- I mean Fruitnut.


No I hadn’t heard of that issue in AZ. They set fine near Fresno CA when I grew there. I have had an issue at times in my greenhouse but didn’t notice it when I still had a lot of peaches. Now I mostly have nectarines but do have about 6 new varieties of peach this yr.

One tip that seemed to help was to mist the flowers once or twice a day with water during bloom. Learned this in some 1890s book about greenhouse fruit production. Can see that under very low humidity conditions that might help stick the pollen to the stigma.

I didn’t mist this yr because the bumblebees were working the flowers hard. Wasn’t really aware that bees work peach because I’m under the impression they are wind pollinated. Anyway I wanted to see what sets and what doesn’t without misting. I’ll know in about 2-3 weeks and will report back.

Lots of people in CA report thrips damage on nectarine, not peach. But that’s shows as scarred fruit not lack of fruit set. I won’t think thrips are the answer.

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I’ve always had bad Thrip damage to my Nectarines, but not my peaches. This year, when tapping the open blossoms, I would get 10-15 Thrips in the palm of my hand from each flower. As per UC Davis Extension, I sprayed with Spinosad and that seems to have killed almost all of them.

Fruitnut is correct - the trees still set fruit, but the fruit is scarred, and the scars are more prone to rot.

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I have not had any nectarines set fruit with the exception of tropic snow, though this will be their fourth spring in the ground for the first wave. I have had several peach trees set though not heavily last year.

If thrip damage is to be blamed you must have thrips. They are definitely present in Phoenix. But not at my place…I know because my next door neighbor has a nice productive (unknown early yellow flesh cultivar) nectarine tree for the past nine years with little scaring.

Seems odd. Would be interested in getting more details. Have you tried fertilizer with low N and high P & K? Do you see flowers? Bees? Aborted fruit? What roots are they on?

I dont think thrips are the answer either. The few that do set dont show thrip damage and I have never seen thrips on this property.

Our peaches always set very heavily, thats never been a issue. It doesnt make any sense to me why what is essentially a fuzzless peach does not. If it is a issue of maturity (which I doubt) then surely our large double delight on its 4th leaf should set (its just opened its first flowers). I can tell you that all our other varieties that have already gone thru bloom set maybe 3-4 per tree when they each had in excess of 100 blooms. But all of those are younger trees. Not that trees being young seems to matter anywhere else. I see fruitnut setting fruit on tiny little trees.

Low N and high P and K describes our native soil. :slight_smile: Our soil is already a little over productive so I dont fertilze much. But when I do its a 15-15-15 slow release with minors. All the nectarines flower profusely. We bring in bee hives during bloom to ensure excellent pollenation. No aborted fruit, they dont set. Flowers dry up and fall off. All my peaches and nectarines are on the same root. Hansen hybrid.

You are hotter and drier than the parts of CA where nectarines are grown successfully. That would seem to be the only significant difference. FN already suggested daily misting, but that would probably make more difference in a greenhouse where he grows them. About the only experiment you could try is to somehow provide mid-day shade on a tree.

It surprises me that a definitive answer hasn’t been supplied by your land grant agricultural college. It is presumably a problem in desserts everywhere so maybe you should take your question to UC Davis and see how far inland nectarines are grown in CA and why not further. God knows that stonefruit production keeps being pushed further east there as they have either built homes or vineyards on most of their best orchard land. Enough to make a fruit lover hate the taste of Zinfandel.

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I think “Alan” touches on it. Nectarines are just more narrowly adapted than peaches. I had the same problem on my Z5 end of the spectrum.

Agreed. As I roll it around in my mind I think cultural and insect issues can really be ruled out. The enviromental angle that has been pointed out here is likely the culprit. Time will tell if certain cultivars will perform while others dont. I do hear reports from time to time of big productive nectarine trees so its possibly a issue of maturity (though that standard never seems to apply to peaches). Alan’s suggestion of contacting UC Davis is a excellent one. Goodness knows our own Ag school is completely uninterested in fruit production (other than citrus). I like to say that Phoenix is the black hole of growing. Its not that growing is difficult here at all, it isnt. But the population that has immigrated here from the midwest is CONVINCED that nothing will grow here (because the environment looks so different from the midwest). So there is almost no base of knowledge.

It sounds like the nectarines aren’t getting pollinated. Don’t understand why they’d be different than peaches. But perhaps your warm temps and low humidity in spring aren’t conducive for pollen attachment/germination on stigma. My suggestion of misting during bloom might help. That’s the only potentially workable solution I’ve heard yet. Too late this yr but easy to try next.


I see that with some peach trees. I’ve had second leaf peach trees produce as many as 75 peaches (this was in response to some experimenting with piling on lots of fresh grass clippings on some new peach trees). As of late, I get little or nothing on second leaf peach trees. There are other times when some peach trees have to become quite large to start bearing.

One of the commercial peach growers around here has on his Website that nects are more susc. to spring frosts than peaches. I don’t have enough experience with nects to comment on that. I mean to ask him about it but keep forgetting.

Here’s what he says on his Website:
We grow all our own peaches at our orchard in Edgerton, Kansas. There are
several varieties of peaches available. Our peaches are all free stone
varieties. We offer yellow and white peaches. Depending on the spring
freeze we also offer Nectarines.”

Alan and Scott haven’t mentioned this is an issue with them, but perhaps it’s varietal related.

I don’t see why nectarines would be more susceptible to spring frost, it is usually a timing thing and peaches and nects bloom at the same time. They seem to take about the same level of frost here. But I’ve only been fruiting nectarines significantly for about 5 years, besides Hardired.

I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the observations of a commercial grower.

I still have two nectarines that are just beginning to bloom so its not too late to try a experiment. When do you suggest to mist these blooms? And by mist do I need to truely mist with a very fine spray or can I spray the tree down with a hose?

Some years we will see a spring frost but this has been a very warm winter since mid January. We havent seen a frost at all in the last 6 weeks. So at least in this circumstance its not likely a factor.

I’ve just sprayed lightly with a hand sprayer and wand. Just enough to wet the tree not wash it off. If it’s going to help it will just be by splashing pollen around but not off on the ground. I sprayed once in morning and once in evening kind of deal. An hour or two after sunrise and before sunset. If you think pollen shed is another time spray then.

Peaches are marginal there.Nectarines probably more so. Now that I am out of there, I wish that I had not tried to be a zone pusher. Having a Rosemary hedge is a pretty nice thing. Trimming a hedge and realizing that you have $2000 of trimmings to rake up is an experience. Figs have kind of a redneck reputation there, but they crop twice a year and grow very well. Kumquats are $4.00 a pound and are a pest-free street tree.

The fuzz helps protect against bugs. Go for ‘Ealigrande’ which ripens before Memorial day, and be grateful you have quality fruit that ripens out of season.

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I might skip the evening misting as this is a great way to contract powdery mildew, Of course it is so dry there, it might not be an issue, Here it would be. PM is not a huge problem for trees, but man melons and cucumbers, it kills them quickly. Some of my plants get it every year. I spray for it but timing is everything! Last year while on vacation I came back to all 7 of my melon plants having it.
Also my lilac and Carmine Jewel tart cherry trees. It didn’t kill the trees, but it defoliated them in early fall. Not a good thing.