Reducing Flowering with Gibberellins to Increase Fruit Size in Stone Fruit Trees: Applications And Implications in Fruit Production

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  • 1 Pomology Department, One Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

Many commercially grown stone fruit including apricots (Prunus armeniaca L.), peaches and nectarines [P. persica (L.) Batsch], plums (P. salicina Lindl., P. domestica L.), prunes (P. domestica L.), and pluots (P. salicina × P. armeniaca) have a tendency to produce high numbers of flowers. These flowers often set and produce more fruit than trees can adequately size to meet market standards. When excessive fruit set occurs, removal of fruit by hand thinning is necessary in most Prunus L. species to ensure that remaining fruit attain marketable size and reduce biennial bearing. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to find chemical or physical techniques that would help to reduce the costs associated with and improve efficiencies of hand thinning, however, alternate strategies to hand thinning have not been widely adopted for stone fruit production. In the past 10 years, several chemical treatments have shown promise for reducing hand thinning needs in stone fruit. Management of flowering by chemically reducing the number of flowers has been particularly promising on stone fruit in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California. Gibberellins (GAs) applied during May through July, have reduced flowering in the following season in many stone fruit cultivars without affecting percentage of flowers producing fruit. As a result, fruit numbers are reduced, the need for hand thinning is reduced and in some cases eliminated, and better quality fruit are produced. There are risks associated with reducing flower number before climatic conditions during bloom or final fruit set are known. However, given the changes in labor costs and market demands, the benefits may outweigh the risks. This paper reviews relevant literature on thinning of stone fruit by gibberellins, and summarizes research reports of fruit thinning with GAs conducted between 1987 and the present in California. The term thin or chemically thin with regard to the action of GA on floral buds is used in this paper, consistent with the literature, although the authors recognize that the action of GA is primarily to inhibit the initiation of floral apices, rather than reduce the number of preformed flowers. At relatively high concentrations, GA may also kill floral buds. Chemical names used: gibberellic acid, potassium gibberellate.

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