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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pepper Tree Losing Its Leaves and Apricot Dropping Its Fruits

This is normal fruit drop in apricot. The fruit was mature
and ready to be picked and a good wind came along
and blew them off of the tree during the night.

Q. Our Pepper tree is losing it’s leaves and they are dropping like crazy. Can you tell me what I can do or is this normal this time of year? Also the fruit is dropping off apricot tree.

A. Leaf and fruit drop can be from very similar causes, usually some form of stress. This stress can come from temperature extremes, irrigation and soil moisture extremes or wildly fluctuating soil moistures. Unlike leaves, for fruit to stay on the plant or tree the flower needs to be pollinated and the environment should be fruit-friendly.

            Even though flowers are modified forms of leaves for fruit to develop then it must include the transfer of pollen from male parts of a flower to female parts of the flower. During this transfer it is best done by insects like bees in those trees and plants requiring pollination by insects (most fruit trees and vegetables).
            During pollination (which can cover a period of a couple of weeks in cool weather because the flowers don’t all open at once) it is best if the weather is friendly to pollinators (good temperatures, good humidity and normal winds) as well as pollination. So when the flowers are open you hope for warm weather free from rain and storms. When these conditions vary further and further from ideal then the amount of fruit set may be diminished.
Early almond drop in May due to lack of pollination. The
yellow almonds have not been pollinated so no nut has
formed and the whole nut drops from the tree two months
before harvest.
            Temperatures after fruit set can play a big factor as well. If temperatures drop really low after fruit set then this can cause fruit to drop early. Some fruit can start to develop from the flower even though it is not pollinated but this fruit will drop from the tree, usually turning yellow first before dropping. The bees may have missed this flower but the flower starts forming the fruit anyway.
            Without pollination many fruits cannot develop more than just its juvenile stage and then drop. The fruit tree thins itself in this manner but not enough for our pleasure. This can be normal but should not be all of the fruit. This is called “June drop” which happens in our climate earlier, sometime in late April or early May usually.
Plum fruits, if they do not get pollinated, will grow for awhile
but eventually yellow and drop from the tree early while
pollinated fruit (green here) will continue on to maturity.
            In the case of your apricot see if it is natural thinning; small fruit yellow and drop. There should still be some fruit remaining. By the way some apricots do need pollinator trees. I do not know what variety you have but Tomcot, Perfection and Rival are three that might need a pollinator. If it set in previous years then it is a problem that occurred this year such as late freeze, poor conditions for pollination when the flowers were open, irregular watering and some others. Hopefully it is just June drop and you still have plenty of fruit left.

            With your California pepper it is most likely irregular or having a streak of hot weather that the plants were not prepared for. Make sure if you get hit with hot weather out of the norm to run them through an irrigation cycle ahead of schedule.

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