Orchards, scientists learn from growers, trees in tour
ARARAT, Va. — Cherries took center stage here June 13 when fruit growers and scientists visited three area orchards to learn how fruit in this part of Virginia is doing this year and to hear news and recommendations from Virginia Tech specialists.
The group gathered on a Blue Ridge kind of morning to tour Levering’s Cherries, Ayers Orchard and McMillian’s Orchard. At each stop, owners shared information about their crops that included apples and peaches as well as cherries.
The informal format for the tour allowed visitors to look at the different trees and ask questions of their hosts. Donald Ayers told them he has been growing cherries for 44 years. He stressed that creating a cash flow is a necessity.
Weather has been a big factor for Ayers this year. He reported fierce winds that blew petals from the cherry blossoms and interfered with pollination. Then the rains came. He explained that rain can cause the cherries to crack as they ripen.
Visitors picked cherries and ate them as Ayers talked about the different characteristics of the varieties he grows.
The hosts were not the only ones sharing their experiences with fruit.
The visitors talked among themselves as they strolled, telling of what they do in their orchards and why.
This kind of learning and sharing seems to be a trend for many field days and tours this year.
Asked how long it would take to pick one of his favorite bing cherry trees, Ayers replied eight hours for one person.
Most of his audience seemed to be of the opinion they did not want to pick cherries. He stressed that picking cherries is labor intensive. He said he had had 15 people picking in his cherry orchard this year. He also sells cherries in a pick-your own mode. He reported these customers enjoy the experience.
Dennis McMillian shared some of the history of his orchard with the group, noting weather caused him to make major changes.
He had planted a peach orchard and was moving forward with it until the temperature dropped to minus-25 degrees one year and killed all his trees.
Area residents, including this writer, remember that drastic temperature drop occurred on Super Bowl Sunday in 1985.
McMillian switched to apples and continues to grow them on mountain sides in the Blue Ridge.
He pointed to many apple trees traditional to the area including, romes, golden delicious, and Staymens.
Dr. Chris Bergh from the Virginia Tech Winchester AREC had some encouraging news for the group, telling them in his after-lunch presentation that a natural enemy of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) may be gaining a foothold in Virginia. Bergh had discussed the on-going research into this invasive insect from Asia and was looking for it here during his visit.
Bergh and his colleagues, Dr. Sherif M. Sherif and Dr. Keith Yoder, shared information about some pests the growers might find in their trees and fruit this season and chemical treatments.
Oriental fruit moth, Codling moth, San Jose Scale, and Wooly apple aphid as well as BMBS were on Bergh’s list. His information is available at https://blogs.ex.vt.edu/tree-fruit-pest.
Sherif updated the group’s information about his on-going research on pre-harvest fruit drop of Gala apples.
He reported on the effects of ReTrain rate and application time.
This data is available at http://blogs.ext.vt.ed/tree-fruit-horticultue/
Yoder talked about disease development in fruit that the growers may encounter. These included scab infections, cedar-apple rust and quince rust as well as summer diseases. He noted that a good hay making day is a good powdery mildew day.
His information is at http://treefruitdisease.blogspot.com/
The annual event was organized by Ashley Edwards, Commercial horticulture Extension agent in Carroll, Grayson and Wythe counties.
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