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  • Author or Editor: Matthew D. Whiting x
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The commercial adoption of the relatively new rootstock `Gisela 5' (Prunus cerasus L. × P. canescens L.) has been limited in the United States sweet cherry (P. avium L.) industry despite its ability to induce precocity and productivity and reduce scion vigor compared to the standard Mazzard (P. avium). This is due in large part to inadequate crop load management that has led to high yields of small fruit. This paper reports on sweet cherry chemical blossom thinning trials conducted in 2002 and 2003. Two percent ammonium thiosulphate (ATS), 3% to 4% vegetable oil emulsion (VOE), and tank mixes of 2% fish oil + 2.5% lime sulphur (FOLS) were applied to entire 8- and 9-year-old `Bing'/`Gisela 5' sweet cherry canopies at about 10% full bloom (FB) and again at about 90% FB. In both years, ATS and FOLS reduced fruit set by 66% to 33% compared to the control (C). VOE reduced fruit set by 50% compared to C in 2002 but had no effect in 2003. In 2002, fruit yield was 30% to 60% lower from thinned trees. In 2003, fruit yield was unaffected by thinning treatment. In 2002, ATS and FOLS improved fruit soluble solids but had no effect in 2003. VOE did not affect fruit soluble solids in 2002 and reduced fruit soluble solids by 12%, compared to C, in 2003. In 2002, each thinning treatment nearly eliminated the yield of the small fruit (≤21.5-mm diameter) and increased yield of large fruit (≥26.5 mm) by more than 400%, compared to C. In 2003, ATS and FOLS did not affect yield of small fruit but increased the yield of large fruit by 60%. In 2003, VOE-treated trees yielded 4.3 kg of small fruit per tree compared to about 0.15 kg from C, suggesting a phytotoxic response to VOE beyond that which may effect thinning. Compared to C, ATS and FOLS consistently reduced fruit set and improved fruit quality. We conclude that commercially acceptable yields of excellent quality `Bing' sweet cherries can be grown on size-controlling and precocious rootstocks.

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Understanding the genetic control of fruit size in sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) is critical for maximizing fruit size and profitable fresh market production. In cherry, coordinated cycles of cell division and expansion of the carpel result in a fleshy mesocarp that adheres to a stony endocarp. How these structural changes are influenced by differing genetics and environments to result in differing fruit sizes is not known. Thus, the authors measured mesocarp cell length and cell number as components of fruit size. To determine the relative genotypic contribution, five sweet cherry cultivars ranging from ≈1 to 13 g fresh weight were evaluated. To determine the relative environmental contribution to fruit size, different-size fruit within the same genotype and from the same genotype grown in different environments were evaluated. Mesocarp cell number was the major contributor to the differences in fruit equatorial diameter among the five sweet cherry cultivars. The cultivars fell into three significantly different cell number classes: ≈28 cells, ≈45 cells, and ≈78 cells per radial mesocarp section. Furthermore, mesocarp cell number was remarkably stable and virtually unaffected by the environment as neither growing location nor physiological factors that reduced final fruit size significantly altered the cell numbers. Cell length was also significantly different among the cultivars, but failed to contribute to the overall difference in fruit size. Cell length was significantly influenced by the environment, indicating that cultural practices that maximize mesocarp cell size should be used to achieve a cultivar's fruit size potential.

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Potential strategies against biennial bearing in apple [Malus × sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] include promotion of return bloom with an “on”-year application of ethephon or inhibition of return bloom with an “off”-year application of gibberellic acid (GA), but the influence of initial crop load on the efficacy of these bioregulators is poorly understood. In 2004 and 2005, six total trials were initiated in which whole trees were manually adjusted shortly before anthesis to one of three levels of crop load (100%, 50%, 0%) in ‘Cameo’, ‘Honeycrisp’, and ‘Fuji’; GA4 + 7 was overlaid on trees of each crop level in four trials and ethephon in two. In all trials, initial crop load was the primary determinant of return bloom; proportional influence on flower density, fruit density, and yield was generally most pronounced at the 50% crop level. GA4 + 7 consistently reduced floral initiation, whereas ethephon promoted it. Flowering responses from a historically alternating ‘Cameo’ trial site showed greater sensitivity to ethephon and less sensitivity to GA4 + 7 than did responses from parallel trials established in an annually bearing ‘Cameo’ block, suggesting a predilection of nascent buds to a specific fate before the influence of exogenous bioregulators or gibberellins from seeds produced in developing fruit. Light crop loads and GA4 + 7 applications generally promoted shoot extension, whereas heavy crops and ethephon had the opposite effect.

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Gibberellins inhibit flowering in apple (Malus domestica) and show promise as tools to promote annual bearing. The authors validated the efficacy of gibberellic acid (GA) to reduce return bloom dramatically in two biennial cultivars. ‘Honeycrisp’ fruit treated in 2004 with GA4+7 at 0, 200, 400, or 600 mg·L−1 demonstrated advanced maturity in terms of starch levels, flesh firmness, and titratable acidity, whereas ‘Cameo’ fruit showed variable treatment effects. In 2005, 0, 300, 600, 900, or 1200 mg·L−1 GA4+7 was applied to ‘Cameo’, and fruit maturity was once again unaffected. Two commercial GA products (GA4, GA4+7) were applied in 2005 to ‘Honeycrisp’ at 400 mg·L−1. Both formulations caused fruit to have less flesh firmness and acidity, and increased levels of starch conversion compared with the untreated control at harvest and after 140 d of common storage. All GA treatments in all four trials profoundly diminished flowering in the season after treatment. Results demonstrate differences in sensitivity to GA between the two cultivars.

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