Thinning of blossoms or fruitlets is a labor-intensive requirement in the production of peach and nectarine (Prunus persica) fruit of optimum size and quality. Prior research conducted by the authors on string blossom thinners for managing peach tree crop load demonstrated that this new technology reduces labor requirement and improves fruit size. The research reported in the current article was conducted over 2 years on 'Sugar Giant' peach and 'Arctic Sweet' nectarine to evaluate string blossom thinner efficacy at variable stages of bloom development ranging from pink to petal fall. Blossom removal at the pink stage of bloom development was lower than at other stages in 2008; however, a 150-rpm versus 120-rpm spindle rotation speed resulted in blossom removal similar to the 80% full bloom (FB) treatment in 2009. Blossom removal at the petal fall stage was similar to the open bloom stage with the exception of the 2009 'Sugar Giant' trial, in which blossom removal was higher at 80% FB. Flower density and fruit set of the bloom stage compared with hand-thinned control treatments followed a similar trend with the exception that there were fewer differences in 2009 and in lower canopy regions. Follow-up hand thinning time was reduced by all string thinning/year combinations except 'Arctic Sweet' at pink in 2008 and 2009 and at petal fall in 2009. The best treatments reduced follow-up hand thinning time compared with green fruit hand thinning alone by 51% and 41% for 'Sugar Giant' and by 42% and 22% for 'Arctic Sweet' in Years 1 and 2, respectively. In 2008, the percentage of fruit in the "7.0 cm or greater" size category was increased by all bloom stage treatments in both cultivars. The 2009 size distribution of 'Arctic Sweet' fruit was unaffected, but the percentage of 'Sugar Giant' fruit in higher market value size categories was increased by the 80% FB and higher rpm pink treatments. Savings in hand thinning time and/or increases in fruit size in both years associated with the bloom stage treatments resulted in a net positive impact of $123/ha to 1368/ha compared with hand thinning alone.
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