Fertilizer Nitrogen and Boron Uptake, Storage, and Allocation Vary during the Alternate-bearing Cycle in Pistachio Trees

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Pomology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

The effects of alternate bearing on recovery and loss of isotonically labeled fertilizer N and B and on the accumulation of carbohydrate and N reserves were assessed in mature `Kerman' pistachio (Pistacia vera L.) trees. Total recovery of labeled fertilizer N applied once (in late January) was ≈ 60% greater if applied to trees entering an “off' than an “on” year, with respect to fruiting. Eleven percent more labeled B was recovered in off- than on-year trees. Five times more N (1 vs. 0.2 kg N) was lost from the tree in fruit and senescent leaflets from on- than off-year trees. In dormant trees, 144% and 22% more starch and N reserves, respectively, were present after off than on years. Thus, on-year trees were characterized by a greater reproductive demand for N and carbohydrates, reduced accumulation of C and N (i.e., storage) reserves in perennial tree parts, and reduced recovery of January-applied labeled fertilizer N than off-year trees. As B is absorbed passively, the higher transpiration that may accompany the 43% larger leaf area per tree and the probability of increased root growth probably contributes to its increased uptake during off years. The enhanced labeled N recovery in early spring by trees entering their off year preceded fruit and seed development in on-year trees. The differential tree capacity for nutrient uptake in spring may have been conditioned the previous rather than the current year. The increased uptake of labeled N by trees entering an off year (i.e., emerging from an on year) was associated with lower levels of carbohydrate and N reserves than for on-year trees that had just completed an off year. Future experimentation should assess the comparative capacity for nutrient uptake by on-and off-year trees at other stages of phenology, e.g., during seed development and postharvest.

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