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Released: July 15, 2003

Prop Up Fruit Tree Limbs If Needed

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The ample crop growing on some fruit trees this year may make branches too heavy to hold up under the weight, said Kansas State University Research and Extension horticulturist Ward Upham.

"Heavy fruit loads this season may cause limbs to break if they are not given extra support," Upham said. "As fruits increase in size, the additional weight on individual branches may be substantial."

He suggested the following methods of handing the heavy limbs of fruit trees:

* Wooden Props - Use one-inch thick boards to prop up limbs. Scrap lumber often works. Cut a ‘V’ on the top edge of the board on which the limb will rest so that it doesn’t slip off, Upham said. Long, heavy limbs may need a prop in the center and another nearer the outer part of the limb.

* Belt Webbing - A 2-inch, plastic, belt-like material can be tied to a heavily loaded limb, then to a large diameter limb above for support. Where a large limb is used for support, it is good to have it supporting limbs on opposite sides so the weight is balanced.

* Taping - Other solutions include wrapping a tape or belt material around the tree in a spiral to prevent limbs from bending until they break, Upham said. Heavy twine may be used, but it should be removed when the fruit is picked or soon after so it does not cut into the bark on the limb.

* Pruning - Home orchardists can prevent some of the need for propping up fruit-laden branches by pruning. The structural strength and branching patterns can be improved in young trees with pruning techniques at the right time in the growing season.

* Maintenance - Check trees regularly, up to two times a week during the last month the fruit is maturing.

"You will find additional limbs that need support," Upham said. "Tending to the heavily loaded tree limbs will reduce the number of broken limbs and help keep a balance of the fruiting wood in your tree."

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K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Lucas Shivers, Communications Assistant
lshivers@oznet.ksu.edu
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Ward Upham is at 785-532-1438