Information on fruit water relations is scant for apple trees, especially under deficit irrigation. Here we discuss plant and fruit responses to deficit irrigation. Three-year-old potted `Braeburn' trees were studied in a glasshouse. The treatments were: well-watered control (C), early deficit (D1), and late deficit (D2). The latter two were, respectively, water stressed during 61–183 and 109–183 days after full bloom (DAFB). The final harvest was at 183 DAFB. Photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, and trunk circumference were lower in D1 and D2 than in C. Leaf area and shoot growth was reduced only in D1. Root length remained the same for all treatments. Fruit were smaller in D1 than in C; however, fruit growth was less sensitive to deficit irrigation than was vegetative growth. Fruit growth in D2 was the same as in C. Fruit concentrations of K+, fructose, sorbitol, total sugars, and titratable acidity were higher in D1 than in D2 and C. Total soluble solids were higher in D1 and D2 than in C. Although fruit water potential was lower in D1 than in C, a concomitant lowering of osmotic potential in D1 fruit led to maintenance of turgor potential, indicating osmotic adjustment. This could have been effected, at least partially, through accumulation of K+ and soluble sugars. Water relations of D2 fruit were not affected by deficit irrigation, although leaf water potential was lower than in C. Fruit water relations and fruit growth are therefore less sensitive to deficit irrigation than are those of vegetative parts.
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