Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Plant and Environmental Science

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Guido Schnabel

Committee Member

Dr. Juan Carlos Melgar

Committee Member

Dr. Rongzhong Ye


Southeastern peach orchards often have poor soil quality due to native soil composition, intensive farming practices and generational replanting of trees in the same locations. This study investigated using mulch amendments to improve the chemical and physical quality of soil prior to planting a new peach orchard. At the beginning of the four-year study, a single-ground municipal composted mulch was incorporated into the soil at two different rates and three cultivars of peaches, ‘Rubyprince’, ‘Julyprince’, and ‘BigRed’ were planted on berms. Thereafter, the same mulch product was annually applied to the top of the berms at two different rates to evaluate changes to soil organic matter (OM), cation exchange capacity, soil nutrients, and base saturation throughout the study. Additionally, horticultural parameters including tree growth, leaf nutrients, fruit yield, and fruit quality were assessed. Incorporating either rate of mulch generally had a positive effect on soil chemistry as cation exchange capacity, base saturation, and OM all increased, while soil pH was stabilized closer to 7. Both mulch rates generally enhanced nutrient availability, suggesting the potential benefits for peach growers looking to provide trees with non-synthetic forms of fertility. The trees in mulch-amended soils grew larger and could potentially yield more fruit at younger age from increased tree size, but initial yields only showed no decrease of yield from the treatments. However, continued observation over the orchard lifespan is needed to understand tree productivity and additional work is needed to optimize future application rates to avoid over-fertilization and to understand the farm economy.

Included in

Fruit Science Commons



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