Fruit Drop in `Empire' Apple by Position within the Cluster in Unthinned Trees vs. Trees Thinned to Single-fruited Clusters

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  • 1 Cornell Univ., Dept. of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agr. Expt. Station, Geneva, NY 14456

For 4 years, six-flowered clusters on 20, unthinned, open-pollinated `Empire'/MM106 trees were labeled at bloom and fruit drop monitored at the king (K) and lateral positions L1 (basal) to L5 (distal) (100 to 120 clusters/year). Depending on year, fruit dropped in 1, 2, or 3 major periods by 8 weeks postbloom (PB), with total percent dropped between 65% and 75%. K fruit dropped least, L4 and L5 most. Trends were that K fruit at October harvest were largest and heaviest (significantly so in some years) and L5 fruit smallest. In nine trees, hand-thinned to single-fruited spurs at 12 days PB, where the fruit at the retained position was known, there was no statistical difference in fruit weight, fruit size, or seed count between cluster positions at final harvest, although L5 fruit tended to be smallest. Numbers of spurs labeled varied from 45 to 72. Percent fruit retained at each position at October harvest was K = 89%, L1 or L2 = 87%, L3 = 83%, L4 = 83%, and L5 = 85%. Presumably, in unthinned trees the limited resources are preferentially taken by the K fruit, which especially seems to reduce set and size of its nearest lateral fruit. However, in thinned trees under lighter cropping stresses, a fruit retained at any of the positions within a cluster has a similar potential for achieving the size and weight typically seen in king fruit.

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