Effect of Previous Crop Load on Stigmatic Morphology of Apple Flowers

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

`Cox's Orange Pippin' apple (Pyrus domestics Berth.) trees, which were previously heavily cropped compared to previously defruited trees, had smaller flowers, lower initial fruit set, and a shorter effective pollination period (EPP) than defruited trees. The morphology of apple flower styles and stigmas was studied using scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Virgin stigmas from previously unstressed trees had fully expanded papillae, but 7 days after pollination the papillae were collapsed and distinct pollen tubes penetrated the stigmatic surface. Virgin stigmas from flowers of previously heavily cropped trees were smaller than those from previously defruited trees. The virgin stigmas of the flowers of heavily cropped trees showed collapsed papillae, and differences were observed in the intercellular material in the subtending transmitting tissue. These differences may explain the poor fruit setting characteristics of apple flowers on trees that have borne a heavy crop in the previous year.

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