Apple (Malus domestica) has a gametophytic self-incompatibility (GSI) system. Consequently, fertilization is achieved by cross-pollination with a compatible pollinator. Compatibility is governed by a multiallelic S locus. Cultivars are fully compatible when both of their S-loci differ and are semi compatible when one locus is identical and the other differs. In a previous study we found that the fruit set and yield of the apple cultivar `Topred' was reduced when it was pollinated by a semi compatible cultivar. To examine if this occurrence is a general feature in apples grown under suboptimal conditions, three additional cultivars, `Golden Delicious', `Granny Smith' and `Royal Gala', were studied as pollen recipients of semi and fully compatible pollinators. Based on PCR analysis of the S-RNase allele, it was determined that the pollination rate of the semi compatible was significantly lower than that of the fully compatible pollinator in all cases. This was reflected by the lower fruit set and seed set of `Golden Delicious' and `Royal Gala', but not of `Granny Smith'. In hand pollination experiments, where pollen was in excess, no difference was found between the semi and fully compatible pollinators in all three cases. These results indicate that the low yield, conferred by semi compatible pollinators, is due to insufficient cross-pollination (and not to cultivar characteristics). Thus, low yields due to semi compatibility may be avoided by appropriate honeybee management that will increase pollination. Still, under suboptimal conditions, for growth and pollination, full compatibility is preferable.
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