New! Sign up for our free email newsletter.
Science News
from research organizations

Management strategies to reduce catfacing in peaches

Six-year study of peach orchard tests vegetation-free strips, supplemental irrigation

July 29, 2015
American Society for Horticultural Science
Researchers studied six under-tree vegetation-free strip widths and supplemental irrigation in years 4-8 of a young peach orchard to determine effects on peach tree growth and fruit yield, harvest maturity, and fruit size. Immature fruit samples were collected during thinning in years 4-6 to determine the effect of treatments on the incidence of hemipteran insect damage (catfacing). Results demonstrated that increasing vegetation-free strip width under trees had beneficial results for peach trees and fruit.

For producers of peaches and other orchard-grown produce, managing the orchard floor can present challenges. Unwelcome vegetation on the orchard floor competes with trees for water and nutrients reducing tree growth and productivity, and can be a host for pathogens and insect pests. Utilizing best practices for irrigation and vegetation management in the orchard helps growers to optimize tree growth, fruit yield, and fruit size. Scientists at North Carolina State University published a study in the May 2015 issue of HortScience that includes guidelines that can help increase tree vigor and fruit yield, and limit damage from hemipteran or "catfacing" insects -- pests that damage and distort peaches and other fruit.

Connie Fisk, Michael Parker, and Wayne Mitchem from the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University conducted a study of young peach trees to test six vegetation-free strip widths under trees. The researchers also tested supplemental irrigation treatments.

Mike Parker, corresponding author of the study, explained that significant damage to peach fruit can occur in North Carolina resulting from hemipteran insects such as the tarnished plant bug and stink bugs. "The damage from these insects results in significantly distorted fruit shape (often referred to as catfacing) and are managed using 2-4 early-season pesticide applications," Parker said.

Fisk, Parker, Mitchem conducted the experiment using six vegetation-free strip widths (0, 0.6, 1.2, 2.4, 3.0, and 3.6 m) with or without microsprinkler irrigation on young 'Contender' peach trees. Data was collected over 6 years at the Sandhills Research Station in Jackson Springs, North Carolina.

"Trunk cross-sectional area (TCSA), as a measure of tree growth, increased with increasing vegetation free strip width; trees grown in the 3.6-m vegetation-free strip had TCSAs 2.2 times greater, on average, than trees grown in the 0-m vegetation-free strip," the authors said. "TCSA also increased with irrigation; trees grown with irrigation had TCSAs 1.2 times greater, on average, than trees grown without irrigation."

Results also showed that peach fruit yield, average fruit weight, and average fruit diameter increased with irrigation in three of five years (two years had higher than average rainfall, thus reducing the need for supplemental irrigation).

In regard to limiting or controlling catfacing insects, the results indicated benefits with a vegetation-free strip under the tree (eliminating all weeds, not just winter annuals) as narrow as 0.6 m. "This could potentially reduce the amount of insecticide that will need to be sprayed each year," the scientists said. "The use of a vegetation-free strip in the tree row will certainly not eliminate the need for insecticide sprays but will make them more effective," they said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Society for Horticultural Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Connie L. Fisk et al. Vegetation-free Width and Irrigation Impact Peach Tree Growth, Fruit Yield, Fruit Size, and Incidence of Hemipteran Insect Damage. HortScience, May 2015

Cite This Page:

American Society for Horticultural Science. "Management strategies to reduce catfacing in peaches." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2015. <>.
American Society for Horticultural Science. (2015, July 29). Management strategies to reduce catfacing in peaches. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2024 from
American Society for Horticultural Science. "Management strategies to reduce catfacing in peaches." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 18, 2024).

Explore More

from ScienceDaily