Stem Water Potential and Apple Size

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

The sensitivity of leaf (ψleaf) and stem (ψstem) water potential and stomatal conductance (gs) to soil moisture availability in apple (Malus domestics Borkh.) trees and their correlation with yield components were studied in a field experiment. Two drip irrigation treatments, 440 mm (H) and 210 mm (L), were applied to a `Golden Delicious' apple orchard during cell enlargement stage (55-173 days after full bloom). Data collected included ψstem, y leaf, gs, and soil water potential at 25 (ψsoil-25) and 50 cm (ψsoil-50). No differences in midday ψleaf's were found between irrigation treatments. Stem water potential was higher in the H treatment than in the L treatment in diurnal measurements, and at midday throughout the season. Stomatal conductance of the H treatment was higher than the L treatment throughout the day. Stomatal conductance between 0930 and 1530 hr were highly correlated with ψstem. The H treatment increased the percentage of fruit >65 mm, and increased the proportion of earlier harvested fruit reaching marketable size compared to the L treatment. Fruit size in the first harvest and the total yield were highly correlated with ψstem. The degree of correlation between plant water stress indicators and yield component decreased in the following order: ψstemsoil-25,soil-50leaf. The data suggest that midday ψstem may serve as a preferable plant water stress indicator with respect to fruit size.

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