Fruit quality issues heading into harvest

Good morning:

I was hearing from some growers earlier this week, was called separately by another, and saw for myself when I was looking over the UVM orchard yesterday some concerning issues with fruit quality that I ascribe to a ‘hormone / stress mess’ in some situations. Many of us are seeing frost rings, the rusted bands around fruit caused by cell damage from the May 18 freeze event. In many cases, as those fruit size up, this damaged skin tissue won’t be able to expand and we can expect a fair amount of fruit splitting as a result. That’s not unexpected.

Of another level of concern are issues I am seeing with ripening and sizing fruit. I have been hearing talk of and have been seeing myself fruit that just doesn’t seem to be sizing well, especially given low crop load and more than ample moisture. Now, I am seeing increased preharvest fruit drop and weirdly uneven ripening. For example, we have Liberty fruit in the UVM orchard that are dropping prematurely while showing signs of over ripeness- deep red color, waxy skin, soft flesh- but are flavorless. This was on August 16, and we normally harvest out Liberty six weeks from now.

My hypothesis regarding what’s going on is that we are seeing the results of a hormonal confusion in trees and fruit this year. In spring, developing seeds in the blossom’s ovary excrete hormones that signal the tree to develop a fruit to protect them. Upon inspection of the fruit buds in the days following the freeze, any damage was assumed to result in lost fruit. However, many fruit did form, and some buds that may not have shown damage may have still sustained it. As we approach harvest, we are seeing that many fruit are showing poorly-developed seeds, tissue damage around the core, or even no seeds at all. I believe that this poor or damaged seed development is behind the paradoxical poor fruit sizing and preharvest fruit drop. I also expect this drop to continue as trees have since the freeze been subject to a number of other stressors, including air pollution from the Canadian wildfires and the unceasing rain.

This brings up the question about applying Retain to reduce apple drop and improve fruit quality this season. ReTain is a plant growth regulator that slows ethylene production in fruit and thus delays harvest and fruit drop. It should be applied 7-30 days prior to harvest, based on the need and maturity of the fruit. But the trees aren’t responding normally to anything this year. Furthermore, the ReTain label states to not apply to trees that are “nutrient, water, insect, or disease stressed.” And it’s expensive, in a year when many of us are needing to reduce costs in the orchard.

Here’s my advice- if you have a ‘normal’ to light crop, but enough fruit that you expect 200+ bushels per acre, then you might consider using ReTain. It won’t be worth saving a crop of straggler fruit that are hard to find, and it won’t stop a dropping crop from continuing to drop. And if trees are showing real signs of stress, especially in wet orchards, I wouldn’t expect much for the money you’ll be spending. As I said before, the normal suite of plant hormones that regulate fruiting seems to be out of whack this year, and another hormonal nudge, which is basically what you’re doing when you apply PGRs, may provide similarly unpredictable results.

Good luck out there,


New Fruit website at UVM Extension Commercial Horticulture

UVM’s new Commercial Horticulture website has officially launched, and some major changes have been made to the site’s format and organization. If you have any difficulty finding the information that you are looking for, feel free to contact Lily Carr (, the editor of the new website, and she will promptly answer any questions or concerns.

The new URL for the website is:

Thank you,


Vermont orchards and vineyards: Plant tissue testing for fertility management

As the calendar flips to August, it’s time to wrap up field activities in preparation for harvest in Vermont orchards and vineyards.

Foliar nutrient analysis – It is the time in the growing season to collect leaf samples in apples and petioles in grapes for analysis. Apple leaf samples are usually collected between July 15 – Aug. 15. Grape petiole samples may be collected at bloom or veraison, and comparisons between years or blocks should be based on the same time of collection. Veraison samples are a couple of weeks out for most vineyards. Samples should be collected separately for each cultivar or block. For apples, collect 50 leaves from the middle of this years’ terminal growth- not too old nor too young- from throughout the block and the tree canopy. In each vineyard sample, a random collection of 75-100 petioles should be collected from throughout the planting. Petioles should be collected from the most recent fully expanded leaf on the shoot, not across from the fruit cluster as is collected for a bloom sample. Just remove the whole leaf and snip the petiole (the leaf ‘stem’) off with your pruners.

Gently wash each sample in water with a drop of dish detergent, then rinse fully and place in an open-top paper bag to dry. The best analytical lab for grape petiole analysis that will provide recommendation for next year’s nutrient inputs is Dairy One, which is associated with the Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory. Video- Taking a Foliar Sample: Vineyards and Orchards Taking a Foliar Sample: Vineyards and Orchards (University of Minnesota)

The UVM Agriculture and Environmental Testing Lab can provide analysis, but at this time their output does not generate fertility recommendations. The following are potential options of labs for analysis. It is recommended that you contact the lab for instructions and costs before samples are sent. Plus, it is important to confirm that they will send recommendations along with the analysis.

(1) Dairy One:
(2) University of Maine Analytical Lab:

Where trade names or commercial products are used for identification, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied. Always read the label before using any pesticide. The label is the legal document for the product use. Disregard any information in this message if it is in conflict with the label.

The UVM Tree Fruit and Viticulture Program is supported by the University of Vermont Agriculture Experiment Station, UVM Extension, USDA NIFA E-IPM Program, and USDA Risk Management Agency.

UVM Extension helps individuals and communities put research-based knowledge to work. University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.

Vermont Produce Program – Flood Response & Recovery

Important information from the VT Agency of Agriculture. Be safe out there, it sounds like another round of nasty weather is coming this afternoon.-TB

Dear Produce Growers,

As the response to this week’s devastating flooding continues, we hope that you and your families are safe. Our hearts and minds are with you during this time and will continue to be throughout the arduous recovery process. If you need immediate support, please contact Vermont 211 by calling 2-1-1 or texting your zip code to 898211.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets has published a AGR.FloodResponse.

Several growers have contacted us with questions about handling produce and produce fields after recent flooding. The guidance below represents the Agency’s best recommendations at this time. If you have questions about how a crop or field may be affected by flooding, please contact the AGR.Produce or 802-622-4412.

Crops Affected by Flooding

Under U.S. law, crops where the edible portion of the plant has contacted flood waters are considered adulterated and cannot be sold for human consumption. Because floodwaters may contain sewage, chemicals, heavy metals, pathogens, or other contaminants, these crops must be discarded, destroyed, or tilled into the soil.

Flooding occurs when water outside of a grower’s control flows into or overflows a field. Pooled water after rainfall alone is not considered flooding. For more information, please see the following U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) resources and guidance:

Evaluating the Safety of Crops and Fields

While any crop where the edible portion of the plant has contacted flood waters should be discarded, growers may be able to keep crops where the edible portion of the plant has not yet formed, such as immature potatoes. These crops should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis after reviewing FDA guidance.

There is no set timeline for when growers can safely replant after flood waters have receded. Growers should review the FDA guidance and follow these general principles: wait until the soil is fully dry before reworking; implement a waiting period before replanting to allow pathogens in the soil to die off over time; and clean and sanitize tools and equipment that contacted flood waters before using them to replant or harvest. A typical waiting period before replanting may be 30–60 days depending on the crop, weather and soil conditions, and the type and extent of contamination in the soil.

Growers should generally avoid replanting crops that are commonly eaten raw with an edible portion of the crop that grows in the ground (such as radishes) or directly on the soil surface (such as lettuce) unless a longer waiting period is adopted (e.g., 60 days or more). Field cultivation, compost applications, and the use of cover crops may help accelerate pathogen die off in previously flooded fields. Plastic mulch may also be used to limit contact between the soil and replanted crops.

Documenting Damage and Losses

Vermont will be working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on a disaster declaration. Once it is safe to do so, please document any damage or crop losses, then reach out to your Farm Service (FSA) County Office. If you have questions about documenting crop loss, call the FSA State Office at 802-658-2803.

Farm First

We recognize that recovery from this emergency will take significant time, energy, and resources. Farmers and their families can contact Farm Firstfor access to resources including technical, legal, or financial assistance as well as to a counselor or trained peer.   

Please know that we are here to support you and your farm during this challenging growing season. Contact us with any questions at AGR.Produce, 802-622-4412, or 802-261-5866.


The Vermont Produce Program Team

Vermont Apple and Grape IPM: Drying off and catching up

Yikes! This has been quite a week. Even the drier sites in northwest Vermont have seen a couple of inches of rain in the past week, and the worst- apparently my town of Calais- saw over nine and a half inches in the past two days. Southern Vermont is especially hard-hit, and Roads are a mess all over the place. UVM Extension is pulling together a growing list of Disaster & Flood Recovery Resources at: Please let me know if I can help with accessing any resources you may need, whether for your farm or family, we’re in this together. And be safe- my heart is with all of us around the state as we navigate this mess.

As for crop management, disease management is key. Most orchards and vineyards (this is a combined bulletin) would have no fungicide coverage after the recent weather, and we are headed into more wetness. Make sure to cover- tomorrow looks good, generally- with a broad-spectrum material. For apples, consider the summer rots and any scab that would be around from spring, that means captan plus topsin (FRAC 1) / strobilurins (11) / DMI (3)fungicides. Rotate those FRAC codes to minimize resistance. Apple maggot are at threshold in many orchards, so consider treating if your traps have more than an average on one per unbaited or five for baited traps per ten acre block.

For grapes, same story- I’m seeing a lot of disease around the state: black rot, Phomopsis, downy mildew, and botrytis is just around the corner. Keep covered with your most effective materials and be sure to consider downy and botrytis specifically through these storms and extended wetting period, and consider removing symptomatic leaves as you see them. New England Small Fruit Management Guide, Grapes.

I now this season has seen some reduced outreach from my end, but I am handling individual questions all the time. The complications of a bloomtime freeze, May-June drought, July floods, and who knows what’s next make this a really challenging year to make statewide recommendations. Give me a shout if you ever need to. Email always best, but my phone works. (802)922-2591.

Take care out there, Terry

Where trade names or commercial products are used for identification, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied. Always read the label before using any pesticide. The label is the legal document for the product use. Disregard any information in this message if it is in conflict with the label.

The UVM Tree Fruit and Viticulture Program is supported by the University of Vermont Agriculture Experiment Station, UVM Extension, USDA NIFA E-IPM Program, and USDA Risk Management Agency.

UVM Extension helps individuals and communities put research-based knowledge to work. University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.

Webinar July 6 – late notice – Fruit Crop Insurance Program – How Crop Insurance Responds after a loss


Upcoming Webinars

Fruit Crop Insurance Program – How Crop Insurance Responds After a Loss

Thu, Jul 6, 2023 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT

Crop Insurance is a widely adopted risk management tool utilized by over 10,000 northeast farmers, producers, and growers. This year’s late May freeze event has left the northeast fruit industry preparing for a challenging harvest. This webinar led by crop insurance specialists from Crop Growers will discuss how crop insurance policies respond to losses and what steps farmers need to take to take in the event of a loss. Join us on Thursday, July 6th at 12 noon to learn more.

Register Here


Denise Russo
│Regional Insurance Manager

(C) 802-735-5618

320 Exchange Street, Middlebury VT 05753

The crop insurance provider of Farm Credit East

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: Unless specifically stated: (i) this email does not create a legal relationship between Farm Credit East, ACA and/or its subsidiaries or affiliates including but not limited to Crop Growers, LLP and FarmStart, LLP ("Sender") and the recipient; (ii) Sender disclaims any liability for the content of this email or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided in this email or its attachments; and (iii) Sender reserves the right to monitor and retain email messages to and from its systems as permitted by law. Email messages may contain defects, may not be accurately replicated for viewing on other systems and may be intercepted, modified, deleted or otherwise interfered with without the knowledge of the sender or the intended recipient. Sender makes no warranties related to these matters. This email and any attachments are intended solely for the use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain information that is confidential, privileged, proprietary, private or otherwise protected from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, please notify the sender, and delete it from your system. In communicating via email you consent to the foregoing. This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Request for input: very short survey re: UVM Horticulture website

In order to better serve commercial growers, we will be updating the UVM Extension Commercial Horticulture website. The goals of these changes are to increase the website’s usefulness, functionality, and accessibility. Feedback from this survey will provide useful information to aid assessment of these updates. This survey will take approximately 2-5 minutes to complete.

The survey is at:

Please complete by July 7 if possible.

This survey complies with Institutional Review Board policies at the University of Vermont, and because no sensitive data are collected nor are responses attributable to individual respondents, it is exempt from increased privacy protocols under certificate CHRBSS: 18-0332. Questions regarding this survey may be directed to: Terence Bradshaw, tbradsha, (802) 922-2591.

VT Apple and Grape IPM: Much-needed rain, response to May 18 freeze

Good evening:

Here’s another joint apple-grape bulletin. The news of the week is that we finally have a good dose of much-needed rain. Our trees and vines will appreciate this very much after the dry May and early June we experienced. For most sites, this should replenish the moisture that the plants have been begging for, or that you have been working hard to provide via irrigation. It also means that weeds are going to grow especially well, so keep an eye on your groundcover management.

More important is disease management. Apples are basically done with scab, but 2-2.5 inches of rain by the time this is all done means there is no fungicide coverage against summer diseases, and that any scab that did sneak through can easily spread. Grape growers- we’re in peak disease management season. Organic, natural, or conventional- be sure to cover up with your fungicide of choice between the rains. See netreefruit or New England Small Fruit Management Guide for best options.

Insects remain quiet on grapes, aside from some grape tumid gallmaker that has popped up here and there. In apples, codling moth are at a prime time to manage right now in most orchards. Check NEWA for best timing in your orchard.

Finally, I have heard from some apple growers, and suspect that a few grape growers may have heard the same, that Farm Service Agency has reported that because those crops are eligible for federal crop insurance, that any uninsured producers facing crop damage from the May 18 freeze are cannot expect further assistance in un- or under-insured. This is a systemic issue across the region, and the Commissioners and Secretaries of Agriculture across the ten-state region from Maine to Delaware have recently petitioned USDA Secretary of Agriculture for increased support for growers in the region. This is a critical step to receiving support, and should any be passed down to farmers, it will likely come through Farm Service Agency office. That is why it is so important to register with your FSA office that you had damage, so that they may contact you should aid come from the federal level.

Take care and please let me know if you have any needs or questions,


Request to USDA from NEASDA for Freeze Damage Aid 06.14.2023.pdf

VT Apple IPM

Word is getting out in the media about the crop loss from the May 18 freeze. I am trying to manage the messaging a bit to nudge writers to encourage customers to support orchards and other farms this year. We don’t need the public writing the crop off before we even have. On that note, I am hearing a few promising signs that there are some fruit out there, even in some orchards that thought they had zero to work with. Some inland orchards are reporting 10-30% of a crop where we thought there was none. That’s a good thing, even if frost-disfigured fruit only make it into cider. But that also complicates management.

I’m considering apple scab still active in most parts of the state, even if NEWA says otherwise. Extended dry weather pauses ascospore maturity and makes the models less predictable. Next week looks showery and most orchards should see any final spores release in the next significant wetting event. Keeping fungicide protection on now will prevent scab from building and will also reduce the likelihood of other diseases like Botryosphaeria leaf spots and rots and apple blotch or Marssonina building up and causing tree defoliation and other symptoms. These relatively weak fungal diseases are often managed when spraying for scab and summer fruit diseases, so maintaining at least a minimal spray program will help prevent them from becoming established in the orchard to become a problem next season.

Insects still need management. Check NEWA or your min-max thermometer and calculate your degree days to run your models for the important pests now- plum curculio, codling moth, and the leafrollers. PC is nearly done with its egglaying period in most orchards. Codling moth is just about to hatch so next week looks like a good time to manage that pest with targeted treatments. Look to the New England Tree Fruit Management Guide for best materials to consider.