Hand-thinning of fruit is among the most labor-intensive orchard practices and consequently contributes significantly to peach (Prunus persica) production costs. Prior research conducted by the authors on string blossom thinners for managing peach tree cropload demonstrated that this new technology reduces labor requirement and also improves fruit size. Studies were conducted over two seasons in peach orchards trained to perpendicular V or open-center systems to evaluate possible pruning strategies to improve tree canopy access by string thinners. The objectives were to demonstrate if modifications in fruiting shoot orientation, pruning detail, and/or scaffold accessibility improved flower removal, reduced follow-up hand-thinning requirement, and/or increased fruit size. Blossom removal was improved by either detailed pruning or partial pruning (elimination of all shoots on the side of a limb inaccessible by the thinner spindle) in both training systems. Flower density and fruit set measurements revealed greater differences among runing treatments compared with hand-thinned control treatments with both fruiting shoot orientation pruning modifications and detail pruning resulting in improved thinning. Thinning efficacy was unaffected by scaffold angle but increased as canopy accessibility ranking increased. Follow-up hand-thinning time was reduced by all treatment, system/ cultivar, and year combinations except standard pruning in an open center-trained 2009 trial. Detail pruning consistently improved fruit size compared with hand-thinned control and other pruning treatments in both perpendicular V- and open center-trained orchard plots. The best treatments resulted in a thinning savings of $120/ha to $282/ha in perpendicularVplantings and $26/ha to $46/ha in open-center plantings.Realized economic savings beyond hand-thinning alone ranged from $473/ha to $2875/ha in perpendicular V trials and $28/ha to $293/ha in open-center trials.
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