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Our family has a huge peach orchard and this year we have been having the pit of the peach split in half when you open it and it looks like another "seed" is trying to grow in the middle of it. What is causing this and how do you fix it?

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A

There are a number of reasons that fruit pits tend to split and most of them relate to cultural practices, specifically the timing of those cultural practices. The critical period is during “pit hardening” when the outer edge of the pit begins to turn brown and
harden. Around 60 days after bloom is when pit hardening begins. During the pit hardening phase is when the cultural practices are most critical in terms of how they affect split pitting. Cultural activities that encourage a rapid surge of growth will tend to increase split pitting. For example, if you thin the fruit during the early part of this pit hardening stage, it causes a surge in growth because you are thinning from maybe 6000 fruits down to 1000 fruits per tree. If you irrigate just after thinning and the temperatures are mild, that will also cause an increase in growth and thus split pits. Some varieties are also more prone as well. Look for varieties that are resistant to split pits when shopping for a new tree. Other things you can do to reduce the amount of pit splitting include:

*  Thinning fruit as late as possible, at least 3-4 weeks after the pit hardening period
has begun.
*  For early varieties, thin twice. Do the first thinning before pit hardening begins
and then delay the second until 3-4 weeks after pit hardening has begun.
*  Avoid over-thinning. If your tree is a heavy producer, try to moderate the crop by
removing more of the fruitwood during the winter instead.
*  Avoid over-fertilizing, particularly during summer.
*  Try to maintain even moisture through the growing season and avoid irrigation
just after thinning. Irrigate before thinning and then late in the pit hardening
stage.
* If you have already begun to harvest and you have a lot of split pits or fruits
prematurely falling, it is too late to do much about it this year.

Posted on 29 Aug 2007

Michael Pace
County Director, Agriculture and 4-H/Youth Agent, Box Elder county

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