Ethephon Prolongs Dormancy and Enhances Supercooling in Peach Flower Buds

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

The heat requirement for flower bud growth of container-grown peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch. cvs. Redhaven and Springold] in the greenhouse varied inversely and linearly with the length of the cold-storage period (SC) provided to break bud dormancy. Ethephon reduced the rest-breaking effectiveness of the 5C treatment. Buds from ethephon-treated trees grew more slowly than buds from untreated trees upon exposure to 20 to 25C, resulting in later bloom dates. The effect of ethephon on flower bud hardiness in field-grown trees of `Jerseydawn' and `Jerseyglo' was studied using exotherm analysis after deacclimation treatments. Bud deacclimation varied with reacclimating temperature (7 or 21 C), cultivar, ethephon treatment, and sampling date. All buds were more susceptible to injury in March than in January or February. Buds reacclimated more rapidly at 21C than at 7C. `Jerseyglo' reacclimated more rapidly than `Jerseydawn'. Untreated buds were less hardy and also reacclimated more rapidly than treated buds. Ethephon enhanced flower bud hardiness in three distinct ways: 1) it decreased the mean low-temperature exotherm of pistils, 2) it increased the number of buds that supercooled after exposure to reacclimating temperatures, and 3) it decreased the rate of deacclimation, especially at 21C. Ethephon prolongs flower bud dormancy by increasing the chilling requirement. The rate at which flower buds become increasingly sensitive to moderate temperatures in late winter and spring is thus reduced by ethephon. Thus, ethephon delays deacclimation during winter and delays bloom in the spring. Chemical name used: (2-chloroethyl) phosphoric acid (ethephon).

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