Partial Defoliation Can Decrease Average Leaf Size but Has Little Effect on Orange Tree Growth, Fruit Yield and Juice Quality

in HortScience

The effects of 2 consecutive years of annual defoliation during the harvest season on fruit size, yield, juice quality, leaf size and number were examined in trees of the midseason cultivar `Hamlin' and the late-season cultivar `Valencia' orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.]. In `Hamlin', removal of up to 50% of the leaves in late November had no effect on fruit yield, fruit number, fruit size, soluble solids yield, juice °Brix, and °Brix to acid ratio of juice the following year. In `Valencia', removal of 50% of the leaves in late March decreased fruit yield and soluble solids yield but did not affect Brix or the Brix to acid ratio of the juice. Leaf size of new flush was reduced by removal of 50% of the leaves in both cultivars but there was little effect on total canopy size. There were no measured effects of removing 25% of leaves from tree canopies. Thus, canopy growth, fruit yield, fruit quality, and leaf size were not negatively impacted when annual defoliations did not exceed 25% of the total canopy leaf area in `Valencia' and `Hamlin' orange trees for two consecutive years. Overall, fruit weight increased linearly with increasing ratio of leaf area to fruit number, suggesting that fruit enlargement can be limited by leaf area.

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