Quince Orchard Management
Climatically, quince culture is similar to that of pear, but generally requires less winter chilling than pear to produce good fruit. It grows under a range of conditions, from cold temperate to subtropical regions. Quince will grow in most temperate climates and tolerates winter frost. In the Central Valley of California, where it is grown commercially, irrigation is required (Campbell 2001).
Quince fruit are harvested in a time frame similar to that of European pear. There are no specific maturity indices for the harvest of quince. It has an unexpected, strong aromatic fragrance (Chen 2004). In temperate climates the fruit remains astringent and hard. However, in the hot, dry Central Valley of California, edible varieties can develop sweetness (Karp 2010). The fruit is easily bruised, and must be harvested with care. Quince are climacteric fruit and require a proper ripening process at 20°C (68oF) for processing (Kader 1992).
Training and Pruning
Quince produce terminal or solitary white or pink flowers at the end of leafy shoots (Zielinski 1977).
Quince trees are usually trained as open-centered trees. Once the desired structure has been developed the tree must be pruned regularly, particularly the interior, to avoid shading. Weak or crowded limbs should be thinned, and the dead ones removed. Unwanted shoots should be completely removed, rather than shortened. Apart from this, little pruning is required; however, if trees become too tall, the tree can be shortened (Campbell 2001).
Unlike other pome fruit (apples and pears), it is difficult to train quince trees to a central leader. This is because the fruits are often on the tips of shoots, causing the shoots to bend over, resulting in a floppy drooping tree habit. Also, the quince, unlike most deciduous fruits, bears flowers and fruit on fairly short shoots which are produced during the same season. It is important to have plenty of new young wood each year, which should not be severely pruned (Campbell 2001).
Quince flowers are visited by insects to collect pollen and feed on nectar. Benedek et al (2001) observed frequent visitation of quince flowers by honey bees and found a correlation between honey bee visits and fruit set. He cited Nyeki’s (1996) work in Hungary indicating a target of 15-20% fruit set for quince in commercial production. Benedek’s calculations suggest that the frequency of bee visitation would have to be very high (4-5 to 8-10 visits/flower/day) to achieve this. Beyond the scope of Benedek’s detailed studies, we can assume that weather and other pollinators have a role in quince pollination.