Crop Load Affects Vegetative Growth Flushes and Shoot Age Influences Irreversible Commitment to Flowering of `Hass' Avocado

in HortScience

Several studies were undertaken in commercial nonirrigated `Hass' avocado orchards under the subhumid semiwarm subtropical climate of the state of Nayarit, Mexico, with the following objectives: 1) to determine the frequency and intensity of vegetative shoot flushes and their contribution to the production of floral shoots, 2) to quantify the effect of tree fruit load on the occurrence of vegetative shoot flushes during the year and the relationship between vegetative and reproductive shoot number during flowering, and 3) to determine the time when apical buds borne on the major vegetative shoot flushes reached irreversible commitment to flowering (floral determination) through the use of shoot defoliation and girdling. Data trees were selected in two orchards based on their current crop load. Four to five branches per tree were tagged, and the number and intensity of vegetative flushes that developed during 2 years, as well as the type of growth produced by apical buds of shoots of different ages, were recorded at the end of the winter bloom periods for two separate years, 1999 and 2001. In a separate experiment using a different set of trees, winter and summer flush shoots were defoliated (year 1) or defoliated and girdled (year 2) at different stages of bud development from September to January in each case. Four vegetative flushes occurred each year. The winter flush that emerged in Feb. 1998 made the greatest contribution to the 1999 winter bloom—76.5% of the shoots produced floral shoots. Contributions of the summer 1 (late July 1998), summer 2 (early Aug. 1998), and summer 3 (late Aug. 1998) flushes to flowering were intermediate. A total of 30.6%, 36.4%, and 19% of the shoots produced floral shoots respectively. All four vegetative flushes produced a similar number of vegetative shoots during winter bloom. Evaluation of the 2001 winter bloom for trees with high (>95 kg fruit/tree) and low (<70 kg fruit/tree) crops showed no effect of tree fruit load on the production of vegetative or floral shoots by winter or summer vegetative flushes. Irrespective of time of treatment (shoot defoliation and girdling) or shoot age, irreversible commitment to flowering of apical buds occurred by 15 Oct., and this stage was associated with an average of 27.5 chilling days (temperature, ≤19 °C) for both years. Buds irreversibly committed to flowering were closed and pointed, with partial senescence of bud scales. Anatomically, the buds showed a convex primary axis meristem and four secondary axis floral shoot meristems.

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