Tactics for Producing Plump,
Perfect Peaches Scrutinized
By Marcia Wood
October 27, 2000
Some of the sweetest, juiciest
peaches in the world come from the sunny orchards of California's central
valley. A three-year study being conducted by
Agricultural Research Service scientists
and their university colleagues may help California growers cut back the amount
of water and fertilizer currently used to produce the luscious fruit.
Researchers are varying the timing and amount of water and nitrogen
fertilizer that they apply to about 1,800 young peach trees in an experimental
orchard at Parlier, Calif. They're looking for differences in growth that
result from delivering varying amounts of water through furrows, sprayers
called microjets, or drip-irrigation tubing.
The scientists fitted the orchard with more than 500 probes and sensors to
monitor the amount of water in the soil and the supply of nutrients such as
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The researchers also are using a miniature
video camera to scrutinize root growth.
The study, now in its second year, focuses on young peach trees because very
little is known about their water and nutrient needs. That's according to ARS
plant physiologist David R. Bryla at Fresno, Calif. He leads the investigation.
Findings should be applicable not only to peaches, but also to orchards of
other stone fruits, including nectarines, apricots and plums. California
produces more of those crops than any other state.
The research is funded in part by a grant from
California State University, Fresno.
Bryla will describe the investigation today to guests at a dedication
ceremony for the new ARS
San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, a 125-acre complex that
includes the experimental orchard. The nearly completed research campus, built
at a cost of about $22 million, has 80,000 square feet of lab and office
buildings, greenhouses and other facilities.
Plans call for the 86 scientists, technicians and others currently based at
the ARS Water Management
Research Laboratory and
ARS Horticultural Crops
Research Laboratory in Fresno--about 25 miles away--to move to the new
complex early next year.
ARS is USDA's chief scientific research
Scientific contact: David R.
Bryla, ARS Water Management Research Laboratory, Fresno, Calif.; phone
(559) 453-3106; fax (559) 453-3122, firstname.lastname@example.org.