Measurement and Modeling of Carbon Balance of Apple Trees

in HortScience
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  • 1 Cornell Univ., NY State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY 14456

Apples have very high record yields (about 140 tons/ha sustained) that demand large amounts of carbon to be produced and partitioned into both fruit and vegetative structures. Even though large quantities of dry matter can be produced, profitability depends on the management of the carbon production and partitioning to produce the optimal balance of yield and fruit quality. The productivity is mostly related to moderate photosynthesis rates per leaf area, long leaf area duration, high seasonal radiation interception, relatively low respiration, and very high harvest index. Due to the perennial nature and large size, few good estimates of seasonal carbon balance are available. Models have been developed, but are not wellvalidated yet, but general seasonal trends are apparent. Daily net CO2 exchange begins negative with early spring growth, reaches zero near bloom, peaks about 6 to 10 weeks after bloom, then gradually declines until leaf fall. The demand of the fruit appears to increase exponentially during cell division, then levels off to a relatively constant demand until harvest. Experiments and modeling suggests that if fruit development is limited by carbon availability, the probability increases in heavily cropping trees, and will occur at about 2 to 4 weeks after bloom and before harvest. Best carbon balance appears to occur in relatively cool temperatures and in very long seasons.

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