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Monday, September 12, 2011

Moorpark Apricot a Good One for Las Vegas

Apricots on short shoots called spurs
Q. We have a beautiful 5-year old Moorpark apricot tree. It has grown well and looks quite healthy. However, it seems to put out a sparse array of blossoms in spring and has a very light crop of fruit every year. The fruit is delicious. I read that the chill factor for this cultivar may be higher than our climate provides. Can I increase the chill factor by watering the branches in winter on cool days to lower the tree's temperature and thus increase the chill factor? If successful I could get a larger crop?

A. Moorpark is a wonderful apricot variety and is used extensively in the canning and fresh fruit industry in California. It is best if it receives about 600 chill hours during the winter. This means that the temperature should drop below 45F for at least 600 hours for the best fruit set.

Apricot branch in the winter
with spurs clearly visible
However, don't worry about the chill factor in this case. We have Moorpark and it has good fruit set here even after 18 years at our chill hours. The problem is more likely the fruiting spurs or lack of them. These will be the short branches along the major branches.

If these were pruned off, damaged or never developed then the crop will be light due to a lack of flowers. This year was a bad year for apricots. We had good weather and then it turned very cold in March. That freeze reduced our orchard apricot production from about two tons down to about 200 pounds.

We have had no problem with Moorpark and irregular production and it has been a wonderful producer in most years. Perhaps the location of your tree in a particular microclimate of your landscape or how it has been pruned may have more to do with it than the variety itself. But a lack of chilling is not the problem.

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