Characterizing Neck Shrivel in European Plum

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Neck shrivel is a physiological disorder of european plum (Prunus ×domestica L.) fruit, characterized by a shriveled pedicel end and a turgescent stylar end. Affected fruit are perceived as of poor quality. Little is known of the mechanistic basis of neck shrivel, but microcracking of the cuticle has been implicated. The objective of our study was to quantify transpiration through the skin surfaces of european plums with and without symptoms of neck shrivel. Cumulative transpiration increased linearly with time and was greater in the susceptible european plum cultivar Hauszwetsche Wolff with neck shrivel, compared with fruit of the same cultivar but without neck shrivel and compared with fruit of the nonsusceptible unnamed clone P5-112. Cumulative transpiration of epidermal skin segments (ES) excised from symptomatic ‘Hauszwetsche Wolff’ from near the pedicel end exceeded that from ES excised from near the stylar end. The permeance of ES from near the pedicel end of ‘Hauszwetsche Wolff’ with neck shrivel (12.4 ± 2.6 × 10−4 m·s−1) exceeded that of ES from near the stylar end (2.9 ± 0.4 × 10−4 m·s−1) 4.3-fold. However, in the clone P5-112, the same difference was only 1.6-fold (1.3 ± 0.8 × 10−4 m·s−1 vs. 0.8 ± 0.3 × 10−4 m·s−1). Microscopy revealed numerous microcracks near the pedicel end of symptomatic ‘Hauszwetsche Wolff’ fruit but markedly fewer microcracks near the stylar end. The microcracks near the pedicel end were oriented parallel to the pedicel/style axis, whereas those near the stylar end were randomly oriented. Juices extracted from near the pedicel end of susceptible cultivars had consistently more negative osmotic potentials [ψS (e.g., for Doppelte Hauszwetsche −5.1 ± 0.1 MPa)] than those from near the stylar end (e.g., for Doppelte Hauszwetsche −4.0 ± 0.1 MPa) or that from fruit without symptoms of neck shrivel (e.g., for pedicel end and stylar scar regions of Doppelte Hauszwetsche −3.8 ± 0.1 vs. −3.3 ± 0.1 MPa, respectively). Our results indicate that increased transpiration through microcracks near the pedicel end may contribute to neck shrivel but that the causes of neck shrivel are likely more complex.

Contributor Notes

We thank Friederike Schroeder and Simon Sitzenstock for technical support and Sandy Lang and Bishnu P. Khanal for helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author. E-mail:

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    (A) Time course of cumulative whole fruit transpiration of the european plum cultivar Hauszwetsche Wolff with and without neck shrivel and of the unnamed clone P5-112 without neck shrivel. (B) Time course of transpiration of epidermal skin segments (ES) excised from the pedicel and stylar ends of ‘Hauszwetsche Wolff’ and P5-112. Fruit of ‘Hauszwetsche Wolff’ exhibited neck shrivel but not those of P5-112. (C) Time course of cumulative transpiration of ES excised from the fruit surfaces of ‘Hauszwetsche Etscheid’ with and without neck shrivel symptoms and from pedicel and stylar ends. Data are presented as means ± se. Where error bars are not visible in a graph, they are smaller than the plotting symbols.

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    (A and B) Images of the neck shrivel susceptible cultivar Hauszwetsche Wolff (A) with neck shrivel and of the nonsusceptible unnamed clone P5-112 (B). (C) Sketch demonstrating pedicel end and stylar end regions investigated by fluorescence microscopy. (DG) Fluorescence micrographs of pedicel end (D) vs. stylar end (E) of ‘Hauszwetsche Wolff’ compared with pedicel end (F) vs. stylar end (G) of P5-112. Images represent pairs of micrographs from pedicel end and the corresponding stylar end of six different fruit. Fruit were incubated in aqueous acridine orange solution. Fluorescing areas represent areas in which the barrier function of the cuticle is impaired by microcracks. This enables the tracer acridine orange to penetrate into the tissue causing the infiltration zone to fluoresce. Scale bar 1 mm in D to G.

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    Frequency distribution of microcracks in european plum of mature ‘Hauszwetsche Wolff’ with neck shrivel. The orientation of microcracks relative to the pedicel/style axis was quantified in the pedicel end (A) and stylar end (B) regions of the fruit. For representative images of microcracks, see Fig. 2. An angle of 0 or 180° indicates a microcrack running exactly parallel to the pedicel/style axis of the fruit (90° runs exactly at right angles to this axis).

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    (A) Time course of cumulative transpiration of susceptible ‘Hauszwetsche Etscheid’ european plum with and without the pedicel and of the pedicel only. Transpiration of the pedicel was determined from detached pedicels or calculated by subtracting the cumulative transpiration of a fruit with its pedicel, from that without it. Data are presented as means ± se. Where error bars are not visible, they are smaller than the plotting symbols. (B) Same data for pedicel transpiration as those shown in A, but now redrawn on a different y-axis scale. se bars were omitted in B for clarity.

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