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.
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.
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