Experiments with olive (Olea europaea L.) shoot explants were carried out to determine the influence of winter chilling on the release of axillary buds from dormancy. This investigation was designed to explore an alternative explanation for the confusing concept surrounding the role of chilling in olive floral induction. Leafy explants collected from 10 Nov. to 6 Mar. were grown in a greenhouse under mist at 13/24C (night/day) and in a growth chamber at 10/21C (night/day) to determine the end of dormancy. Growth of floral buds from leafy explants was first recorded from 5 Jan. samples. After that date the percentage of developing floral buds and rate of their development increased. Floral bud abscission, increase in bud fresh weight, and simultaneous decrease of relative bud dry weight were associated with growth initiation of floral buds. Manual defoliation of adult trees during the period of shoot explant collection indicated that leaves play a critical role in development once the floral buds had completed dormancy. Supplementary chilling of isolated shoots collected 20 Jan. demonstrated that 7.2C was sufficient to complete chilling requirements, while 12.5C allowed both the completion of chilling requirements and the proper temperature for subsequent floral bud growth. Winter chilling is required to release previously initiated floral buds from dormancy, and we question the previous concept that the role of chilling is to induce olive floral initiation.
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