Mature 'Norman' peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees were dormant pruned to retain a range of fruiting shoots per tree (71 to 250) during 3 years from 1997 to 1999. About 40 days after bloom each year, fruits on all trees were thinned to similar crop loads, so only the number of fruits per shoot varied. Fruit set and number of fruits removed by hand thinning were positively related to number of fruiting shoots retained per tree. Number of fruits harvested per tree was not related to number of shoots per tree, whereas average fruit weight at thinning and at harvest, and crop value per tree were negatively related to the number of shoots retained per tree. These results indicate that commercial peach producers should consider modifying pruning and thinning strategies. Rather than retaining a large number of fruiting shoots per tree and hand thinning to distribute fruits every 15 to 20 cm along each fruiting shoot, producers should first determine the number of fruits that trees of a given cultivar can adequately size and then perform the thinning operation to obtain the desired crop load. The number of fruiting shoots retained per tree during pruning should be one-fifth to one-seventh of the number of fruits desired per tree, so that five to seven fruits per fruiting shoot are retained after hand thinning.
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