Nutrient Uptake by Cropping and Defruited Field-grown `French' Prune Trees

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

Four adjacent heavily cropping 12-year-old `Petite d'Agen' prune (Prunus domestica L.) trees were selected, and two of the trees were defruited in late spring (28 May) after the spring growth flush and full leaf expansion. Trees received K daily through the drip-irrigation system, and 15N-depleted (NH4)2SO4 was applied twice between the dates of defruiting and fruit maturation. Trees were excavated at the time of fruit maturity (28 July) and fractionated into their component parts. The following determinations were made after tree excavation and sample processing: tree dry weight, dry weight distribution among the various tree fractions (fruit, leaves, roots, trunk, and branches), tree nutrient contents, within-tree nutrient distribution, total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNCs), and recovery of labeled N. Trees only recovered ≈3% of the isotopically labeled fertilizer N over the 6-week experimental period. Heavily cropping trees absorbed ≈9 g more K per tree (17% of total tree K content) during the 2-month period of stage III fruit growth than defruited trees. The enhanced K uptake in heavily cropping trees was apparently conditioned by the large fruit K demand and occurred despite greatly reduced levels of starch and TNCs relative to defruited trees. Fruit K accumulation in heavily cropping trees was accompanied by K depletion from leaves and perennial tree parts. Except for K, fruited and defruited trees did not differ in nutrient content.

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