A greater understanding of apple (Malus ×domestica) pollen tube growth rates can improve crop load management in commercial orchards. Specifically, applications of caustic bloom-thinning chemicals need to occur when enough, but not too many, flowers have been fertilized to achieve crop load densities that balance yields with marketable fruit sizes. In this study, the pollen tube growth rates of five crabapple (Malus sp.) cultivars were measured in the styles of three maternal cultivars at 12, 18, 24, and 30 °C after 24 hours in a growth chamber. Pollen tube growth rates were greatest for ‘Selkirk’ and ‘Thunderchild’ at 12 °C, and greatest for ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Selkirk’, and ‘Thunderchild’ at 24 °C. Pollen tube growth increased with increasing temperatures until 24 °C. There were minimal pollen tube growth rate increases between 24 and 30 °C. Overall, ‘Snowdrift’ had the slowest pollen tube growth rate of the five evaluated crabapple genotypes. At 24 and 30 °C, ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Thunderchild’ pollen tubes reached the base of the style most frequently, and ‘Snowdrift’ pollen tubes the least frequently. Pollen tube growth rate was also influenced by the maternal cultivar, with Golden Delicious having relatively faster pollen tube growth than Fuji at 24 and 30 °C. Interactions among paternal and maternal genotypes as well as temperature after pollination reveal complex biological and environmental relationships that can be used to develop more precise crop load management strategies for apple orchards.
This project was funded by Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture.
We thank Abby Kowalski, Ashley Thompson, Taylor Mackintosh, and David Carbaugh for their assistance in the field and lab, Mizuho Nita for guidance with statistics, and Roger Harris and Tony Wolf for review of the manuscript.
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