The naturally occurring carbon isotope composition (or 13C: 12C ratio, expressed with the notation d13C) of plant tissue may be used as an indicator of water use efficiency during plant growth. d13C has been shown to be an effective tool to study physiological response of plant to environmental conditions, especially water stress. The objective of this work was to test if d13C could be an indicator of carbon limitations or a low source: sink ratio. Trees of `Imperial Gala'/Bud 9 (n = 12), 6-years-old, field grown at the Clarksville Horticultural Research Station (Clarksville, Miss.), were assessed with different crop load (LCL = Low Crop Load, 0.76 ± 0.44 fruit per trunk sectional area (TCA); NCL = Normal Crop Load, 7.25 ± 1.83 fruit/TCA; HCL = High Crop Load, 15.83 ± 1.76 fruit/TCA) and leaf: fruit ratio (LCL: 52.78 ± 8.55, NCL: 13.33 ± 3.06, HCL; 4.31 ± 0.68) immediately following June drop. Net photosynthetic rate of leaves were monitored during the season and elevated rates were observed in NCL and HCL and correlated with the fruiting process. Photosynthesis was inhibited in LCL more in the afternoon (from 20% to 42% in relation to NCL) than in the morning (from 5% to 20%) and this was positively correlated with crop sink strength. Variations of the stable carbon isotope composition of roots (fine and coarse), fruit, leaves, and current-year stems were examined. The d13C varied by tissue (fruit > shoot and leaf > root) and in relation to the level of crop load (d13C‰ in fruit: LCL –23.513 ± 0.248, NCL –24.891 ± 0.594; and HCL –24.935 ± 0.375). These results may have implications for analysis of isotopic signals in carbohydrate stress and fractionation steps will be discussed.