Comparing Novel Sweet Cherry Crop Load Management Strategies

in HortScience
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  • 1 Washington State University, Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, 24106 North Bunn Road, Prosser, WA 99350

The development of novel crop load management techniques will be critical to the adoption and success of high density sweet cherry orchard systems based on new clonal rootstocks. Herein we report on a comparison of potential means of balancing crop load of `Bing' sweet cherry grown on the productive and precocious rootstocks `Gisela 5' and `Gisela 6'. In 2002, thinning treatments were applied to entire trees and consisted of an unthinned control (C), and manual removal of 50% of the blossoms (B) or 50% of 2-year-old and older fruiting spurs (S), throughout the tree. In 2003 all trees were left unthinned to characterize the carry-over effect of thinning treatment in 2002. In 2002, compared to C, thinned trees had 38% to 49% fewer fruit per tree, 22% to 42% lower yield, 8% to 26% higher fruit weight, and 2% to 10% larger fruit diameter. S and B treatments reduced yield by 42% and 22% on `Gisela 5' and by 40% and 31% on `Gisela 6', respectively. `Gisela 5'-rooted trees showed greater improvements in fruit quality than did trees on `Gisela 6'. Compared to C-, S-, and B-treated trees on `Gisela 5' yielded fruit that was 15% and 26% heavier, respectively. Yield of fruit ≥25.5 mm diameter was increased by 240% by S and 880% by B, though yield of this size fruit was still low (1.5 and 5.2 kg/tree, respectively). Neither technique had any beneficial carryover effect in the year following treatment despite S trees bearing about 25% fewer fruit than B and C trees. In both years, `Gisela 5'-rooted trees bore about 15% fewer fruit than trees on `Gisela 6'. Compared to `Gisela 5', `Gisela 6'-rooted trees were about 41%, 46%, and 24% more productive for C, S, and B, respectively. Number of fruit/tree in 2003 was within 4% and 8% of the previous year on `Gisela 6' and `Gisela 5', respectively. Crop value analyses suggest growers would be rewarded for producing high yields of medium size fruit (e.g., 21.5 to 25.4 mm) compared to low yields of high quality fruit.

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