This article reports on the physiological effects and horticultural benefits of chemical blossom thinners on 9-year-old and 12-year-old `Bing'/`Gisela®5′ sweet cherry trees in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Chemical thinning agents were applied at 20% and 80% full bloom (FB) by air-blast sprayer and were comprised of: 2% ammonium thiosulphate (ATS), 4% vegetable oil emulsion (VOE), 2% fish oil + 2.5% lime sulfur (FOLS), 1% tergitol, and an untreated control. Leaf gas exchange, leaf SPAD meter readings, chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, fruit yield, and fruit quality were evaluated. FOLS, tergitol, VOE, and ATS suppressed leaf net CO2 exchange rate (NCER) by 33%, 30%, 28%, and 18%, respectively, over a variable length recovery period directly after 80% FB treatment. Leaf NCER recovered fully from every thinning treatment. Reductions in leaf NCER were unrelated to gS. VOE reduced estimated leaf chlorophyll content the greatest, suppressing overall levels by 11% for 23 days after treatment. All blossom thinners reduced constant fluorescence (Fo). No thinning agent reduced fruit set or yield in 2004. ATS, FOLS, and tergitol reduced fruit set in 2005. VOE was ineffective as a thinner yet exhibited significant leaf phytotoxicity. Among thinners, there was no relationship between inhibition of leaf NCER and thinning efficacy.
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