Crop Load and Canopy Temperature Affect Leaf Characteristics and Net Gas Exchange of `Spring' Navel Orange Trees

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  • 1 INIA-UY, Salto-Grande, UY
  • | 2 INIA-UY, Salto-Grande
  • | 3 UF/IFAS, CREC

Six-year-old `Spring' navel [Citrus sinensis (L.). Osb.] orange trees were either totally defruited, 50% defruited or left fully cropped to study effects of fruit load on growth net gas exchange characteristics of mature leaves on seven selected clear days from Nov. 2001 through July 2002. Near harvest time, defruited trees had more shoot flushes, greater leaf dry wt per area (LDW/A) but lower net assimilation of CO2 (Ac) and stomatal conductance (gs) at midday than leaves on trees with fruit. Defruited trees had a higher ratio of internal to ambient CO2 (Ci/Ca) concentration in leaves implying internal limitations were dominant over stomatal limitation on Ac. Removal of half the crop increased individual fruit mass but reduced fruit color development. Half the trees were also shaded for four months prior to harvest with reflective 50% shade cloth to determine effects of lower leaf temperature (Tl) and leaf-to-air vapor pressure difference (D) on leaf responses. On selected clear days throughout the season, shade increased midday Ac and gs but decreased Ci/Ca compared to trees in the open implying that high mesophyll temperatures in sunlit leaves were more important than gs in limiting Ac. There were no effects of the shade treatment on canopy volume, yield or fruit size. Shaded fruit developed better external color but lower Brix than sun-exposed fruit. Thus, the presence of mature fruit maintained higher Ac than in leaves on defruited trees but high leaf temperatures and D reduced gs and Ac on warm days throughout the season.

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