Guidelines for the choice of stone fruit rootstocks

Gregory A. Lang [Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA]

Rootstocks for stone fruits (Prunus spp.) provide numerous and diverse production benefits, not least of which is the ability to produce high quality improved clonal fruit varieties, but also for better adaptation to orchard site variations and adoption of improved production techniques. These include mitigation of potential abiotic (soil, climate) and biotic (disease, pest) production limitations, as well as modification of natural tree vigor, precocity, and canopy architecture. Stone fruit production has lagged far behind that of apples with regard to rootstock-based control of vigor, which has contributed to comparatively less efficient production methods. Sweet cherries were the first stone fruits to have to a full range of vigor-controlling rootstocks become commercially available, about 25 years ago. It is primarily over the past decade that rootstocks conferring an increasing range of vigor control have begun to look promising for the larger-fruited stone fruits (peaches, apricots, plums), based on various scientific and commercial evaluation trials. This is likely to be a significant component of the overdue adoption of improved orchard training systems, particularly planar or “fruiting wall” canopies that are more labor efficient for pruning, fruit thinning, and harvest, and often contribute to better and/or more uniform fruit coloration, ripening, and quality. Such training systems also facilitate new and developing orchard data acquisition technologies and precision management techniques. General guidelines for the choice of stone fruit rootstocks for both specific growing conditions and anticipated contemporary production systems are discussed.

DOI: 10.26353/j.itahort/2024.1.1826

Keywords: Prunus species, intensive training systems, high density, labor efficiency, precision orchard management, mechanization

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Lang, G.A. (2024) 'Guidelines for the choice of stone fruit rootstocks', Italus Hortus, 31(1), pp. 18-26. doi: 10.26353/j.itahort/2024.1.1826