1HortResearch, Hawkes Bay Research Centre, Private Bag 1401, Havelock North, New Zealand;2 National Climate Laboratory, HortResearch, Batchelar Research Centre, Private Bag 11030, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Growth of apple fruit can be described as an initial exponential phase lasting the 40+ days of fruit cell division followed by a more-or-less linear phase where growth is by cell expansion. Temperature is a major influence on fruit growth rate during the cell division phase, thereby affecting fruit size at maturity. However it is generally thought that temperature has less-direct impact on fruit development during the fruit expansion phase. Our observations of apple growth among regions and seasons of considerable climatic variability led us to speculate that temperature may impact directly on fruit development during fruit expansion but that responses may be interactive with carbon balance (crop load) influences. Controlled environment studies are being used to examine this hypothesis. Potted `Royal Gala' trees set to three levels of crop (one fruit per 250, 500, or 1000 cm2 leaf area) were grown from 56 to 112 DAFB in day/night temperature regimes of 18/6, 24/12, and 30/18 °C. All trees grew in field conditions prior to and following the controlled environment treatments. Treatments were harvested when 20% to 25% of fruit on trees showed the visual indicators used commercially to indicate harvest maturity. Fruit were evaluated using attributes that determine quality and that may have implications for fruit post harvest behaviour. Temperature and crop load influences on time to maturity, fruit fresh and dry weight, fruit DM content, fruit firmness, fruit airspace content and estimated fruit cortical cell size will be presented and implications discussed.