Physiology of Pruning Fruit Trees

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Virginia Cooperative Extension

Fruit trees are pruned to improve fruit quality by encouraging an appropriate balance between vegetative (wood) and reproductive (fruiting) growth. Annual pruning of fruit trees always reduces yield, but enhances fruit quality. Pruning increases fruit size because excess flower buds are removed and pruning encourages the growth of new shoots with high-quality flower buds. Pruning improves light penetration into the canopy, and light is required for flower-bud development, fruit set and growth, and red color development. Pruning also makes the canopy more open and improves pest control by allowing better spray penetration into the tree; air movement throughout the canopy is increased, which improves drying conditions and reduces severity of many diseases. This publication describes why plants respond to pruning and other forms of plant manipulation used to train trees. This information applies to all plants, but application to fruit trees is emphasized