As an important starting point for optimizing the structure of agricultural products and implementing green production methods, the direction of orchard management development is directly related to the success of “supply side” reform in the fruit industry in China. However, in the context of the progressive aging of the rural labor force, is the old labor force still capable of the high labor intensity and fine cultivation management needed, such as for pruning, or to maintain or improve the application efficiency of fertilizers? In this paper, based on the micro-production data of peach farmers in Jiangsu Province, we explore the influence of aging on the management of fruit trees and further introduce fruit tree management into the production function to analyze the effects of different orchard management methods on fertilizer efficiency. The results show that with the increase of labor force age, although the total labor investment of aged farmer households has somewhat increased, significant differences exist in the distribution of labor investment between the different production processes due to the different labor demands from the various production processes. In technical stages that demand good physical capabilities, such as pruning and flower/fruit thinning, elderly farmers have significantly reduced labor investment than younger ones, and this relative shortfall further reduces the marginal output of their chemical and organic fertilizers. Foreseeably, the aging of the rural labor force will have a negative impact on the efficiency of chemical and other fertilizers, cost-cutting, and profit-making in the fruit and nut industries, which have the same management methods for pruning and flower (fruit) thinning. Therefore, this paper offers relevant policy recommendations for the optimization of production tools, expansion of operation scale, and development of socialized services for the fruit industry, etc.
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