Mature apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh.) were studied in 1989 and 1990 to explore the effect of crop load on fruit dry weight (DW), dry-matter concentration (DMC), specific leaf area (SLA), and leaf C exchange, using girdled (G) and nongirdled (NG) limbs. Fruit DW and DMC decreased with heavier fruit loads. Fruit on G limbs had higher fruit DW and DMC than on NG limbs. SLA on NG limbs was unaffected by crop load, but increased dramatically on G limbs with a crop load of less than one fruit per square centimeter limb cross-sectional area. These leaves also had a low photosynthetic rate, high stomatal resistance, and high internal CO2 concentration. The results do not support the concept of feedback inhibition of photosynthesis and demonstrate specific circumstances in which the capacity of sinks to use assimilates was saturated. Exceeding this limit by significantly reducing sink strength resulted in excessive carbohydrate accumulation in leaves. Nutrient levels in leaves on G, nonfruiting limbs were generally lower than for the other treatments.
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