In 2001 and 2002, we imposed a wide range of croploads (0-15 fruits/cm2 of TCA) on 4- and 5-year-old Honeycrisp/M.9 trees by manual hand thinning soon after bloom to define appropriate croploads that give adequate repeat bloom and also the best fruit quality. At harvest each year we evaluated fruit ripening and quality. Samples were stored for 5 months in air at 38 °F and 33 °F and evaluated for fruit firmness and storage disorders. Cropload was negatively correlated with tree growth, return bloom, fruit size, fruit red color, fruit sugar content, fruit starch content, fruit firmness, fruit acidity, fruit bitter pit, fruit senescent breakdown, fruit rot and fruit superficial scald, but was positively correlated with leaf blotch symptoms, fruit internal ethylene concentration at harvest, and fruit soggy breakdown. There was a strong effect of cropload on fruit size up to a cropload 7, beyond which there was only a small additional effect. Although there was considerable variation in return bloom, a relatively low cropload was required to obtain adequate return bloom. Fruit red color was reduced only slightly up to a cropload of 8 beyond which it was reduced dramatically. The reduced fruit color and sugar content at high croploads could indicate a delay in maturity of but, fruits from high croploads were also softer, had less starch and greater internal ethylene. It that excessive croploads advance maturity. Overall, croploads greater than 10 resulted in no bloom the next year, and poor fruit size, color and flavor, but these fruits tended to have the least storage disorders. Moderate croploads (7-8) resulted in disappointing return bloom and mediocre fruit quality. For optimum quality and annual cropping, relatively low croploads of 4-5 were necessary.
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