Homegrown | Growing Fruit Trees in North Carolina

Growing tree fruit in North Carolina can be
a very profitable venture. However, it is also going to be very challenging. Some of the greatest problems that growers
have would be labor, trying to harvest large apple trees and peach tree, it’s all done
by hand. That’s why we would look at apples on dwarfing
rootstocks where most of the work can be done from the ground. Another challenge that growers have would
be frost and freeze killing their crop during bloom. Here in mid-March when the trees start to
bloom, we get very, very nervous about the nighttime temperatures. This is a plum tree, which is one of the reasons
that we do not recommend plums in North Carolina because they bloom early. If you look at this tree, it received temperatures
of approximately 19 degrees six nights ago. Even though there are still flowers on this
tree all of these flowers had been killed and it will bear no fruit this year. One of the ways that growers can address this
is using varieties that bloom later. On the news you may see reports where they
have big wind machines that turn during the night. It’s not the moving air that causes that,
but those wind machines pull down warmer air from above and circulate it through the orchard. Another option that is used with strawberries
and smaller crops is using overhead irrigation where they run irrigation through the night,
allowing the water to freeze on the tree. When the water hits the trees it’s the water
going from a liquid to a solid state that provides the insulation, or extra heat, that
keeps the blossoms from freezing. Another challenge would be insects and disease
management. Although we have very good programs developed
at North Carolina State University for managing these insects and diseases, there are always
going to be challenges with new and emerging diseases and insects that our growers are
going to have a hard time controlling. Tree fruit grown in North Carolina are grown
on family owned farms. There is no such thing as corporate fruit
farming in North Carolina. The growers have to deal with crop losses
from time to time, and in so doing that may affect the availability of locally grown fruit. If you buy your fruit from a roadside retail
market or the farmers market, you want to make sure that you appreciate that farmer
and try to support them as much as possible.

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