Altering Shoot Extension Did Not Affect Bitter Pit Incidence in ‘Honeycrisp’ Apple

in HortScience

Malus ×domestica Borkh. cv. Honeycrisp has been widely planted in North America during the past two decades. However, it is susceptible to many disorders that result in high postharvest losses. Excessive vegetative vigor in apple trees can reduce fruit calcium (Ca) concentrations and increase bitter pit incidence in apple fruit. Plant growth regulators are used routinely in tree fruit orchards to control vegetative growth to increase light penetration into the canopy. The objective of this study was to determine whether shoot growth inhibition using the application of prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca; Apogee®) or stimulation via application of gibberellic acid (GA3; ProGibb®) affected bitter pit incidence in ‘Honeycrisp’ apple. In 2016 and 2017, the experiment was conducted in a commercial ‘Honeycrisp’ orchard with five treatments [untreated control, 62.5 mg·L–1 P-Ca (low P-Ca); 125 mg·L–1 P-Ca (high P-Ca); 16 mg·L–1 GA3 (low GA3); and 32 mg·L–1 GA3 (high GA3)]. Treatments were applied twice during the growing season. Shoot length and the number of internodes for new growth were measured 4 weeks apart after treatment. Overall yield and fruit quality were assessed at harvest, and bitter pit incidence was assessed after 4 months of storage. Low and high P-Ca rates limited shoot growth extension; high GA3 increased shoot extension compared with the untreated control. However, the number of internodes did not change substantially for each shoot. The number of internodes is one of the primary factors affecting leaf area and, consequently, the transpiration balance between fruit and leaves. In both years, treatments with either GA3 or P-Ca did not affect fruit elemental concentration or bitter pit incidence. These results indicate that growth-inhibiting plant growth regulators that reduce shoot extension may not be useful for managing bitter pit incidence in ‘Honeycrisp’ apple.

Contributor Notes

Funding for the project was provided by the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission AP-15-101. This work was also supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch/Multi-State Project 227451.

We thank Katie Mullin and Michelle Reid for technical support for the project, and Chris Sater for editing assistance in writing.

Corresponding author. E-mail: lee.kalcsits@wsu.edu.

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    Vegetative shoot length extension of ‘Honeycrisp’ trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) measured at 40 d after full bloom (DAFB; light-gray bars) or 67 DAFB (dark-gray bars) in 2016 compared with an untreated control. Vertical bars represent se (n = 3). Means with the same letter are not significantly different at P < 0.05 (Fisher’s least significant difference).

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    Vegetative shoot length extension of ‘Honeycrisp’ trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) measured at 40 d after full bloom (DAFB; light-gray bars) or 67 DAFB (dark-gray bars) in 2017 compared with an untreated control. Vertical bars represent se (n = 3). Means with the same letter are not significantly different at P < 0.05 (Fisher’s least significant difference).

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    Five representative extension shoots taken at 40, 67, and 100 d after full bloom (DAFB) from ‘Honeycrisp’ apple trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) in 2017 compared with an untreated control. Meter stick marked at 10-cm intervals.

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    The number of internodes for ‘Honeycrisp’ trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) on first-year growth of ‘Honeycrisp’ trees in 2016 compared with an untreated control. Vertical bars represent standard se (n = 3). Means with the same letter are not significantly different at P < 0.05 (Fisher’s least significant difference).

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    The number of internodes for ‘Honeycrisp’ trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) on first-year growth of ‘Honeycrisp’ trees in 2017 compared with an untreated control. Vertical bars represent se (n = 3). Means with the same letter are not significantly different at P < 0.05 (Fisher’s least significant difference).

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    The mean intermodal length for ‘Honeycrisp’ trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) compared with an untreated control on first-year growth of ‘Honeycrisp’ trees in 2016 (black bars) and 2017 (gray bars). Vertical bars represent se (n = 3).

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    Fruit yield per tree for ‘Honeycrisp’ trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) compared with an untreated control on first-year growth of ‘Honeycrisp’ trees in 2016 (black bars) and 2017 (gray bars). Vertical bars represent se (n = 3).

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    Mean fruit mass per tree for ‘Honeycrisp’ trees treated with either high or low rates of gibberellic acid (GA3) or prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) compared with an untreated control on first-year growth of ‘Honeycrisp’ trees in 2016 (black bars) and 2017 (gray bars). Vertical bars represent se (n = 3).

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