660 Reducing Floral Initiation and Return Bloom in Stone Fruit Trees: Applications and Implications in Fruit Production

in HortScience

Commercially grown apricots (Prunus armeniaca), peaches (Prunus persica), nectarines (Prunus persica), plums (Prunus salicina and Prunus domestica), and pluots (Prunus salicina × Prunus armeniaca) have a tendency to produce high numbers of flowers. These flowers often set and produce more fruit than trees can adequately size to meet market standards. When excessive fruit set occurs, removal of fruit by hand-thinning is common to ensure that fruit size meets market standards. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to find chemical or physical techniques that would help to reduce costs associated with and improve efficiencies of hand-thinning; however, using alternate strategies to hand-thinning have not been widely adopted in stone fruit production. In the past 10 years, through the continuing efforts of scientists throughout the world in public and private institutions and business, it appears that there are chemical sprays capable of reducing the need for hand-thinning in stone fruit. Management of flowering by reducing the number of flowers on apricot, peach, nectarine, plum, and prune has shown promise under climatic conditions such as those found in the San Joaquin Valley of California. By applying gibberellins during May through July, flowers in many stone fruit cultivars can be reduced in the following season. The reduction in flower number does not generally lead to an increase in fruit set. As a result, fruit numbers are reduced, the need for hand thinning can be reduced, and in some cases eliminated. There are risks associated with reducing flower number before climatic conditions during bloom or final fruit set are known. However, given the changes in labor costs and market demands, especially in the developed world, the benefits may outweigh the risks. The application and implications of these summer gibberellin applications toward reducing flower numbers will be discussed as it relates to commercial stone fruit growing.

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