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Commercial Horticulture > Comm Hort Blog > Posts > Key Stages for Fruit Fertilization in Fruit Production

Four of the critical stages of high nutrient demand for fruit trees are pollination, early development, mid to late season, and late season/postharvest. During these times, growers should be sure to maintain healthy fertilization levels. Here are some tips during each stage of fruit production.

Stage 1: Pollination

Fertilizing for fruit set actually starts the season before during bud development. This year, you’ll feed the buds from the prior season for good fruit set for this season.

Fertilization during bud development is important because you can always thin fruit off, but you can’t create blossoms and fruit set if you don’t have it at the beginning, according to Agro Culture Liquid fertilizer’s Dr. B. Levene.

Boron is of critical importance during pollination and early fruit set. Many growers apply a foliar boron spray, particularly during early bloom. Foliar applications are the most efficient method of uptake and a foliar spray applies nutrient right where it needs to be – on the buds themselves. The buds are a small target, so growers don’t need much. In most cases, only a pound or two of boron per acre per season would be needed.

Stage 2: Early Development

Early development is largely about nitrogen and phosphorus, applied to produce a good canopy and for the energy to get and hold fruit set.
Many different types of application are used during this stage. Some growers use a traditional dry spreader fertilizer and broadcast the fertilizer on the floor of the orchard. Others will band dry fertilizer beside trees or liquid fertilizer under the canopy, and still others inject through irrigation.

Overall, fertilizer rates will be based on what’s appropriate for the age of the tree and the results of a soil test. Applying higher rates on more mature trees and lower rates on younger trees is part of using fertilizer responsibly, Levene says.

 Stage 3: Mid To Late Season

Calcium and potassium are the nutrients to monitor mid to late season. Every variety will need more potassium during this time.

Foliar applications are the way to fine tune a crop, fill in certain growth stages or deal with a dry period of little water uptake, but start with the soil to get the right balance. As trees will also be setting buds for next season during this phase, micronutrients can be important to apply at this time.

 Stage 4: Late Season/Post Harvest

Most of the fruit varieties will have a fair bit of growing to do, even into the late season. For these, maintaining insecticide and fungicide applications, even after harvest, will maintain leaves as long as possible and give trees more energy going into winter.

Please, refer to the 2015 Integrated Orchard Management Guide for Commercial Apples in the Southeast and the 2015 Southeastern Peach, Nectarine and Plum Pest Management and Culture Guide for more specific details on apple and peach nutrition scheduling:

Elina Coneva, Fruit Specialist, ACES


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