A New Approach for Successful Organic Peach Production in the Southeast

The production of organic peaches is extremely difficult under the humid conditions of the Southeast due to high pest and disease pressures, and the lack of effective, organically approved pesticides. Consequently, only very few growers have taken the risk and transitioned into organic peach farming. This proposal aims to provide growers in the Southeast with a new tool to reduce the risk of transitioning to organic production of peaches. This strategy consists of the use of paper bags to physically protect the fruit from pests and diseases to reduce reliance on spray applications. Based on preliminary data, the project investigators suggest that growing organic peaches in paper bags can reduce pest and disease incidence in peaches, and increase the packout of organic farms in the Southeast. Bagged fruit will be compared with non-bagged fruit (control) in two two-acre orchards in an organic farm: one orchard with trees of an early-season variety and another one with a mid-to-late season variety. Fruit will be bagged shortly after thinning. At commercial ripening stage, all fruit will be harvested, and yield, fruit quality and pest/disease incidence will be evaluated. Postharvest disease incidence will be evaluated at three and seven days after harvest. Developing a strategy to produce high quality organic peaches in the Southeast may increase the number of organic growers in this region. Investigators will disseminate their results in local and regional meetings with peach growers, and through fact sheets, technical notes, newsletters, and videos.