Prediction of Bitter Pit in ‘Honeycrisp’ Apples and Best Management Implications

in HortScience

During a 3-year study of bitter pit in commercial ‘Honeycrisp’ apple (Malus ×domestica) orchards, incidence was associated with low calcium (Ca) levels in fruit peel; high ratios of nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and/or magnesium (Mg) to Ca in fruit peel; excessive terminal shoot length; and low crop load. Peel N and Mg concentrations were negatively correlated and peel Ca concentration positively correlated with crop density (CD). Shoot length (SL) was not consistently correlated with peel N, Mg, or phosphorus (P) and was negatively correlated with only Ca. A two-variable model that included SL and the ratio of N to Ca explained more than 65% of bitter pit incidence. The model has implications for best management of the cultivar in the field and during storage.

Contributor Notes

This research was supported by the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Apple Program, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Research Program.

We acknowledge the valuable contributions of Tom Jarvinen, Michael Basedow, Erin Dugan, Kristi Kraft, Danielle Ryan, Montserrat Fonseca Estrada, Alana Anderson, Ryan Hilton, Sladjana Prozo, and Gustavo Salazar (Penn State Extension); Tom Kon, Edwin Winzeler, and Melanie Schupp (Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center); Dave and Jim Benner, Clint and Bill Lory, Ben and Joe Lerew, Chris Baugher, and Dave and John Wenk (grower cooperators); Lee Showalter, Leighton Rice, David Rice, Ben Rice (Rice Fruit Company); Ryan Hess (Hess Brothers Fruit Company); John Spargo, and Denyce R. Matlin (Penn State Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory); and Jacqueline F. Nock and Yosef Al Shoffe (Cornell Apple Postharvest Physiology Laboratory). The mention of a trademark, proprietary product, or vendor does not constitute a guarantee or warranty of the product and does not imply its approval to the exclusion of other products or vendors that also may be suitable.

Corresponding author. E-mail: tab36@psu.edu.

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Article Figures

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    Scatter plots showing the relationship between the percentage of fruit developing bitter pit and concentrations of nutrients in the peel at the calyx end of ‘Honeycrisp’ apples over three seasons. Each observation represents a single tree replicate.

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    Relationship between bitter pit (% observed) and predicted values generated with SAS’s PROC SCORE. Regression equation for the three-year data set (n = 161): Bitter pit (%) = –44.29 + 0.802*SL + 4.13*(N/Ca); where SL = average terminal shoot length (cm) on each tree, and (N/Ca) is the ratio of nitrogen to calcium in the peel at the calyx end of ‘Honeycrisp’ apples for three seasons.

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    Relationships between bitter pit (BP) and N/Ca ratio for ‘Honeycrisp’ apple trees with short, medium, and long shoots. Shoot length is the average terminal shoot length of 10 shoots per tree. The N/Ca ratio is the ratio of nitrogen to calcium in the peel at the calyx end of the apples over three years. Regression equations: short shoots - %BP = –12.40 + 2.06 *(N/Ca) (R2 = 0.19, P = 0.0005, n = 58); medium shoots: %BP = –2.01 + 3.55*(N/Ca) (R2 = 0.47, P < 0.0001, n = 50); and long shoots - %BP = –22.46 + 4.80*(N/Ca) (R2 = 0.6897, P < 0.0001, n = 53).

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