Three experiments were performed to determine if pruning treatments could reduce the need for peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] fruit thinning without reducing average fruit weight. To determine if dormant shoot heading affected fruit size simply by reducing the number of flowers per tree, all 1-year-old shoots on 'Cresthaven' trees were headed by 50% or blossoms were removed from the terminal half of each shoot. At 45 days after full bloom, all trees were hand-thinned to obtain predetermined crop densities. Average fruit weight was highest on trees with blossom removal, but crop value and net profit were highest for nontreated trees. To determine the influence of treatment severity on fruit weight, all shoots on 'Cresthaven' trees were blossom-thinned or headed to remove blossoms on varying proportions of each shoot. Fruit set and the number of fruit removed during postbloom thinning decreased as the percentage of a shoot that was headed or blossom-thinned increased. Average fruit weight at harvest and crop value were higher for trees with blossom removal than for trees with headed shoots. Fruit weight and crop value were not affected by the percentage of the shoot treated. In the final experiment, all shoots on 'Cresthaven' trees were headed by 50% or were not headed. Heading of shoots reduced fruit set, number of fruits removed at thinning, and thinning time per tree, but yield, crop density, and average fruit weight were not affected by heading. Profit was increased by shoot heading one of the 3 years. Results from this study indicate that heading peach shoots by 50% while dormant pruning can reduce thinning costs without reducing fruit size, but a similar level of labor-intensive blossom removal may reduce postbloom thinning costs and improve fruit size.
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