Peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] fruit thinning was used to reduce the competition for assimilates among peach fruits and to identify periods of source- and sink-limited growth during development. Individual fruit size, based on diameter or calculated dry matter accumulation, increased in trees with lower crop loads compared to fruits of unthinned trees in three peach cultivars. Relative growth rate analysis indicated that peach fruit growth was apparently limited by the assimilate supply (source-limited) or by its genetic growth potential (sink-limited) during specific growth periods. In stage I and at the beginning of stage III of the double-sigmoid growth curve, periods of source-limited growth occurred in the later-maturing cultivars Flamecrest and Cal Red. Peach fruit growth was apparently sink-limited during stage II of the growth curve when fruit relative growth rates were similar for the thinning treatments. Fruit growth in `Spring Lady', an early maturing cultivar, appeared to be primarily source-limited during the season. Although total fruit dry matter production was reduced by thinning, individual fruit dry weight on thinned trees was higher than that on trees with a heavy crop load. This typical thinning response was apparently caused by the differences in the amount of time that fruits grew under sink-vs. source-limited conditions with different crop loads. Final crop yield depended on fruit count per tree and on the available assimilate supply, and was affected by the individual fruit growth potential.
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