Posts Tagged ‘Clemson University’

Combatting Fungicide Resistance in Strawberry Nurseries

UF/IFAS and Clemson University use peach research to benefit strawberry industry

Sweet, succulent strawberries have to start out somewhere, and that generally means the nursery. Before they make it onto shelves throughout the U.S. and the world from fields in Florida and California, they have to survive and thrive. Proper care in the nursery will lead to healthy, productive plants in the growers’ fields. Unfortunately, early introduction of pesticides and fungicides can result in disease resistant plants making it into the fields. A joint research project between the University of Florida and Clemson University in South Carolina seeks to eradicate this problem. Read More…


Expanding Organic Research with Recent Funding


Clemson Will Partner with Other Southeastern Universities on Peach-Bagging Study

THANKS TO A RELATIVELY NEW PROCEDURE, more organic peaches may be entering the market to satisfy consumer demand. The process, which is still under research, involves bagging the individual fruit while it’s on the peach tree.

Clemson University pomologist Juan Carlos Melgar and pathologist Guido Schnabel are tying paper bags on peaches as they grow on trees, an unconventional method of protecting them from insects and disease while reducing reliance on pesticides. Testing for the method began two years ago and research will expand to more orchards in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida with a $999,770 four-year grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). They will analyze optimal bagging times, harvesting strategies, and the impact of variable weather conditions while working with scientists at the Universities of Florida and Georgia. Together, they will evaluate production using bags, educating growers throughout the Southeast about growing peaches organically with this method, and analyzing the economics of bagged peaches.

“There is only one organic peach producer in South Carolina,” Melgar states. “Organic peach production in the Southeastern U.S. is very difficult due to the high pest and disease pressure, plus the lack of efficacious organic pesticides. And while there is a great demand among consumers for organic peaches, its production is concentrated in western states, such as California and Washington. This project will provide organic peach growers and growers in transition to organics in the Southeastern U.S. with an innovative strategy to increase peach orchard productivity and economic returns, to produce high-quality, low-residue peaches; and to reduce reliance on insecticide/fungicide applications.”

Melgar explains that they have tested bags in commercial orchards in South Carolina under two settings — conventional production and organic production. In their trials, they found that the use of bags increased pack out (marketable yield) in the organic orchard since they reduce the presence of fruit pests and the incidence of fruit diseases. There is no increase in yield in the conventional orchard because the spray programs used for peach production in the Southwest already do a great job at controlling pests and diseases.

But how cost effective can it be to wrap each piece of fruit on a tree in a bag? It takes one hour for a person to bag all the fruit in a mature peach tree, approximately 400 pieces of fruit, Melgar reports.

“It mostly depends on the availability of workers. Bagging cost (based on an average wage of $10-$12 per hour and a few dollars for bags per tree) is between $15 and $17 per tree,” he says. “For a conventional orchard, if a mature tree produces 200 to 250 pounds, a grower would only need to receive 10 cents per pound extra to cover the costs.”

Surveys of potential consumers say they would be willing to pay an average of 40 cents extra per pound, with a group of consumers normally above 50 years old and with high income saying they would be willing to pay up to $1 extra per pound of bagged peaches, notes Melgar, who thinks the opportunity for conventional growers would be there if these peaches are sold to this niche market with people looking for a premium peach.

“On the other hand, organic growers may benefit of both an increase in production and an increase in price,” Melgar points out.  “Thus, we think this strategy can benefit organic producers more than conventional producers.”

Harvesting the bagged peaches doesn’t seem to be a problem either. Growers know when their varieties should be harvested.  At the predicted harvest time, it is recommended to rip the bags open and harvest the first pick (those that are ready), leaving the other fruit bagged on the tree, bags open at the bottom, doing the second and third picking when they are ready.

Initial tests on bagged peaches show sugar and acidic content, and the ratio between the two, to be the same in both bagged peaches and peaches applied with pesticides, so flavor is not affected, according to Melgar.  Fruit size and weight are the same.  For some varieties, only the color is different with the bagged peaches not having the blush red as conventionally grown peaches due to not getting as much sunlight.

South Carolina growers harvest more than $64 million in peaches a year, according to figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.  That puts South Carolina second only to California in peach production, and the Southeast as a whole produces nearly one third of the peach crop grown in the United States.

What is the program’s outlook?  “We see there is a great opportunity for the organic growers for two reasons — demand for organic peaches is growing in the U.S. while production in the Southeastern U.S. is almost nonexistent, and, second, they are the ones that can benefit the most from the price and the increase pack out,” Melgar states.

Going forward, program plans include focusing on improving strategy, spray programs, comparing bagging at small versus large scale, and studying the long-term impact of bags on decreasing pests and disease populations in the field when a big acreage is bagged.




Publisher’s Introduction: Southeastern Orchardists Have Both Challenges and Opportunities

kirkland-sig-tpnIF YOU’RE a “glass is half full” kind of person (and you are in the agriculture industry, so you most likely are), then you might look at some of the challenges the industry faces and see opportunity. You’re not alone. With chill hours being an essential part of the peach cultivation process, there’s no doubt that the lack of accumulation of those chill hours will have definite impacts on the yield come harvest time — should that happen. But, fortunately for us, we have the power of research and technology in our corner. In this edition, you’ll read about how southeastern universities, industry researchers, growers, and government branches are working toward changing challenges into opportunities for the Southeastern peach industry. Here are some of the themes you’ll discover:

• Research funding is awarded to Clemson University for continued efforts on a viable organic peach growing method for Southeastern orchardists.

• An example of how diversifying with u-pick, a festival, and other agritourism offerings can put peaches in the limelight.

• Jeff Cook at the University of Georgia talks about what climatologists are saying and how research is under way to make trees produce around the chill hours.

• Florida orchardists have an opportunity with the Farm to School program.

• Plus, University of Florida researchers, growers, and allied professionals discuss the state of the industry and what efforts will help keep momentum going.

It’s a challenging time to be in the agriculture industry, but, in all honesty, when is it not? The same could even be said for opportunities, and it is those who focus on the latter that will emerge triumphant with creative solutions for continued industry growth.

If you are reading this edition for the first time, and you are a grower, you may subscribe to this publication for free. Just go to and complete the online subscription form. As you count the chill hours into the winter months, I wish you the best, and I look forward to a plentiful harvest.



Nelson Kirkland is publisher of The Peach News magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at