Effect of Fruiting and Biennial Bearing Potential on Spur Quality and Leaf Gas Exchange in Apple

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Uniform annual apple (Malus ×domestica) fruit production is highly dependent on consistent flower formation from year to year, as inconsistent flowering can lead to the biennial bearing observed in some high-value cultivars. The presence of fruit on a spur has been considered the main cause of the expression of biennial bearing and the inhibition of flower initiation, with a number of theories being introduced to explain the phenomenon. In the current experiment, individual spurs of annual bearing cultivars (Gala, Ruby Jon, and Pink Lady) and biennial bearing cultivars (Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Golden Delicious) were thinned to a single fruit or completely defruited at petal fall. Spurs were sampled at the end of the growing season. Effects of fruiting on spur characteristics such as spur and bourse leaf area, stomatal density, leaf gas exchange, and flower formation were determined. Across all cultivars, the presence of fruit on a spur did not affect spur characteristics or flower formation compared with nonfruiting spurs. Similarly, flowering was unaffected by those factors associated with greater spur carbohydrate status, such as bourse leaf area and assimilation rate. Cultivars with greater transpiration and stomatal conductance (gs) rates had lower rates of flower formation. Future studies should focus on xylem flow and expression of genes regulating flowering and plant growth regulators in annual and biennial bearing cultivars.

Contributor Notes

We thank pomology lab members Andres Mayorga, Fatemeh Sheibani, Songwen Zhang, and Bofan Xie for their help in the different phases of the experiment. We also thank Cary Mitchell and Celina Gomez for their help with the gas exchange measurements.

Corresponding author. E-mail: hirst@purdue.edu.

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Article Figures

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    (A) Apple fruiting spur showing spur leaves emerging directly from the spur, and bourse leaves emerging from the bourse shoot. (B) Leaves on 1-year-old shoot.

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    Gas exchange of ‘Honeycrisp’ apple leaves measured throughout the day ≈2 months after full bloom in Lafayette, IN. (A) CO2 assimilation rate. (B) Stomatal conductance.

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    Total bourse leaf area as affected by cultivar and fruiting treatment at the end of the 2014 growing season. Analysis of variance within every cultivar showed no significant effects of fruiting on total bourse leaf area during Summer 2014 for any of the six apple cultivars.

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    Stomatal density of spur, bourse, and shoot leaves of six apple cultivars measured toward the end of the 2014 growing season. No significant differences existed between defruited and fruited spurs, so data were pooled within each cultivar. Different letters represent significant differences (P < 0.05) among different leaf types within each cultivar.

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    The effect of fruiting on flower formation in six apple cultivars during Summer 2014. Logistic regression analysis within each cultivar showed no significant effect of single fruiting on bourse flower formation compared with defruited spurs. Flower formation is presented as a proportion of flowering spurs within each treatment for each cultivar.

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    Average seed number per fruit of annual and biennial apple cultivars growing in Lafayette, IN, during 2014.

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    Relationship between flower formation and (A) transpiration and (B) stomatal conductance in six apple cultivars during Summer 2014. Flowering (measured as a percentage) represents the proportion of flower formation for each treatment in each cultivar.

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