Calcium Absorption during Fruit Development in ‘Honeycrisp’ Apple Measured Using 44Ca as a Stable Isotope Tracer

in HortScience

Calcium (Ca) sprays are commonly used to control Ca-related disorders such as bitter pit in apple. Increases in the frequency and the amount of Ca applied directly to the fruit have increased fruit Ca levels and are associated with a reduction in bitter pit incidence. However, the absorption efficiency at different fruit developmental stages is poorly understood. Here, the absorption efficiency was measured using 44Ca stable isotope applied to 30 individual fruit at five different times every 2 weeks between June drop and 2 weeks before harvest in a medium-density ‘Honeycrisp’ orchard. Fruit size, spray adhesion, and Ca and potassium (K) content were monitored weekly for 12 weeks between 26 May and 13 Aug. 2015. At harvest, the 44Ca-labeled fruit was picked and separated into peel and inner fruit for mass balance analysis of 44Ca absorption to regions of the fruit that are important to prevent Ca-related disorders. As expected, δ44Ca was greater in the peel than the interior of the fruit. However, there was a significant amount of 44Ca present in the inner fruit at harvest for all five applications applied during the growing season. Using a stable isotope tracer approach, we present evidence that Ca is absorbed throughout fruit development. These findings support current recommendations for frequent Ca applications in low concentrations throughout fruit development to increase fruit Ca levels and reduce the incidence of bitter pit in ‘Honeycrisp’ apple.

Contributor Notes

Corresponding author. E-mail: lee.kalcsits@wsu.edu

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    Fruit mass (solid line) and surface area:volume ratio (dashed line) during fruit development (N = 50 ± se) of ‘Honeycrisp’ apple between 26 May and 6 Aug. 2017.

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    Potassium (K), calcium (Ca) concentrations (% D.W.) and the K:Ca ratio of developing ‘Honeycrisp’ apple fruit (N = 5 ± se) sampled weekly from 4 June to 6 Aug. 2015.

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    Potassium (K), calcium (Ca) concentrations (rhodium-normalized PXRF counts) and the K:Ca ratio measured using a portable X-ray fluorometer for developing ‘Honeycrisp’ apple fruit (N = 50 ± se) sampled weekly from 4 June to 6 Aug. 2015.

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    Scatter plot comparing quantitative calcium (top) and potassium (bottom) concentrations in apple fruit measured using microwave plasma absorption emissions spectrometry and semiquantitative portable X-ray fluorescence (N = 60). The solid line represents the best linear fit using linear regression and Pearson’s correlation coefficient is indicated for each comparison.

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    Estimated spray adhesion [(mL·m−2) (dash) and (mL/fruit) (solid line)] during fruit development of ‘Honeycrisp’ apple fruit (N = 50 ± se) between 26 May and 6 Aug. 2017.

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    δ44Ca (‰) of peel and cortex tissue sampled at harvest from ‘Honeycrisp’ apple fruit (N = 30 ± se) covered with 500 mg·kg−1. 44CaCl2 on 12 June, 26 June, 9 July, 23 July, and 6 Aug. 2015.

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    Estimated 44Ca (μg) applied to (solid squares) and present (open squares) in apple fruit (N = 30 ± se) at harvest for five different application dates during the 2015 growing season. Absorption efficiency (%) was calculated as the percentage of applied 44Ca that was present in the fruit at harvest. Letters denote mean separation of absorption efficiency (%) using Tukey’s honestly significant difference test (α = 0.05).

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