Two-year-old branch sections of `Starkspur Supreme Delicious' apple (Malus domestics Borkh.) trees growing on 17 rootstock were studied over 6 years to determine the effects of rootstock on shoot morphology and spur quality and describe how these factors may be related to precocity and productivity. Shoot length was affected by rootstock and was positively related to trunk cross-sectional area within each year, but the slope of the regression line decreased as trees matured. The number of spurs on a shoot was largely a product of shoot length. Spur density was inversely related to shoot length, where rootstock with longer shoots had lower spur densities. Flower density was not related to spur density, and shoot length only accounted for a minor part of the variation in flower density. The proportion of spurs that produced flowers was closely related to flower density, indicating that rootstock influence flower density by affecting the development of individual buds rather than by the production of more buds. More vigorous rootstock generally had spurs with larger individual leaves and higher total leaf area per spur, but fewer spur leaves with lower specific leaf weights. More precocious rootstock were also more productive over a 10-year period when yields were standardized for tree size. Tree size was the best indicator of precocity and productivity, which could be predicted with a high degree of certainty as early as the 4th year.
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