Phytoavailability of Zinc in Postbloom Zinc Sprays Applied to `Golden Delicious' Apple Trees

in HortTechnology
Frank J. PeryeaTree Fruit Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, 1100 North Western Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801.

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Postbloom zinc (Zn) sprays are replacing dormant and postharvest sprays as the primary means for applying Zn in commercial apple (Malus ×domestica) orchards. We conducted a multiyear field study comparing the phytoavailability of Zn in 11 commercially available Zn spray products, plus reagent-grade Zn nitrate and a water-sprayed control, applied postbloom at identical Zn concentrations to `Golden Delicious' apple trees. Two sprays were applied per season (mid-May and mid-June), at per-spray rates of either 0.5 lb/acre in 2000 or 1.0 lb/acre in 2001 and 2002. No sprays were applied in 2003 in order to evaluate carry-over effects. The Zn sprays had no effect on fruit number, bitter pit or russeting, or on leaf green color. Zinc concentrations of detergent plus acid-washed leaves (a procedure used to remove surface residues of the Zn sprays) sampled in August and of unwashed winter buds sampled the following January were used as indices of tree Zn status. Leaf Zn concentration generally increased in the order: Zn phosphate < Zn oxide = Zn oxysulfate < chelated/organically complexed Zn ≤ Zn nitrate. There was little consistent difference among chelated and organically complexed Zn products. Leaf Zn concentration varied considerably between seasons, and was not related to Zn application rate. All of the Zn sprays increased leaf Zn concentrations to desirable levels. Because the inorganic Zn-based products typically are substantially less expensive per unit of Zn, it may be less costly and just as effective to use a higher rate of an inorganic Zn product as to use a lower rate of a more expensive chelated or organically complexed Zn product. On the other hand, use of low rates of highly phytoavailable Zn products minimizes release of the nutritionally essential but potentially ecohazardous metal into the environment. There was no detectable lasting effect of the three previous seasons of Zn sprays on leaf Zn in 2003. Similarly, there was no detectable effect in any year of the Zn spray treatments on bud Zn concentration the following winter. These results suggest that the amount of Zn supplied by the sprays at the tested rates was insufficient to promote substantial Zn accumulation within the trees, thereby validating the recommendation for annual application of Zn nutritional maintenance sprays.

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