Fruit of sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) crack during or after rain due, in part, to absorption of water through the fruit surface driven by the water potential gradient. In 1972, J. Vittrup-Christensen suggested that overhead misting of calcium salts during precipitation may be an effective way to prevent cherry cracking by reducing the water potential gradient. We tested this hypothesis by designing a computer-controlled irrigation system to intermittently spray a 10% CaCl2 solution on trees during rain events. Spray emitters were placed in the middle and at the top of the canopy. The program turned the system on for 90 s at each 0.3 mm of rain and monitored daily rainfall and accumulated mist times. Two `Emperor Francis' and two `Ulster' were treated with equal number of controls. Intact and cracked cherries were counted on four branches per tree at three times when cherries were susceptible to cracking. Overall, cracking was reduced from 33% to 11% by the CaCl2 spray at the end of the experiment. Treated `Ulster' had 9% cracked fruit, while control had 43% cracked fruit. Differences for `Emperor Francis' were not significant. Phytotoxicity was estimated at about 15 % of leaf area. This system will be reevaluated in 1995 with the added objective of quantifying and reducing phytotoxicity.
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