The timing and concentration of dilute foliar sprays of gibberellic acid (GA3) were tested for their flower bud thinning effect during three consecutive years on two common cultivars of peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.] grown in commercial culture under midwestern conditions. There was a strong trend for June sprays to minimize the total flower bud density (buds/cm shoot) of unbranched shoots on mature `Redhaven' and `Cresthaven' trees. The GA3 treatments applied between early July and late October did not reduce the total flower bud density. Increasing the concentration from 25 or 50 mg·L-1 to 200 mg·L-1 tended to decrease total flower bud density, especially when applied May through July. During the same period the GA3 treatments reduced total flower bud density of short shoots (<10 cm), but only about two-thirds as effectively as on long shoots. The `Redhaven' live flower density on trees treated in May, June or September was up to 2 times greater then the control in March following exposure to extreme fluctuations in winter temperatures to near critical lows in 1988 and 1989. Although 50 mg·L-1 GA3 applied in June 1989 reduced total flower bud density by 70%, it resulted in a live flower density only 35% lower than the control. The treatment induced 2.3 times greater survival of the total flower buds existing after thinning when winter temperatures gradually declined to critical levels. The increased live flower density caused by the GA3 sprays translated to a cropload 1.3 to 2.25 times greater than control. The length of neither fruiting quality shoots in the bearing canopy nor 1-year-old upright branched shoots in the top of trees (watersprouts) was appreciably affected by the GA3 applications. GA3 treatments at 100 and 200 mg·L-1 in late July and early August slightly delayed time of full bloom. Defoliation was delayed slightly by treatments applied in September and late July. Moderate doses of appropriately timed GA3 sprays reduced flower bud densities without adverse effects on winter survival, yield, defoliation or bloom time. Our results support the use of GA3 as a reliable peach thinning tool.
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