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Stephen M. Southwick, James T. Yeager and Kitren G. Weis

`Loadel' cling peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees were sprayed with Release® LC (Abbott Laboratories, North Chicago, Ill.) in 1993. Preharvest (harvested 16 July) sprays of 50, 75, 100, and 120 ppm applied on 15 June improved fruit firmness without altering fruit maturity (flesh color by commercial standards) in 1993. In the following 1994 season, flower number per centimeter of shoot length was reduced by sprays ranging from 50 to 120 ppm applied on 15 June and 9 July. No hand-thinning was required on trees treated on 15 June. Trees treated 9 July had 50% fewer fruit removed than on untreated trees, where more than 3000 fruit were removed by hand-thinning. Salable yield was higher than untreated control trees where Release® LC had been applied at 50 ppm on 15 June and 9 July. Fruit size equaled those of hand-thinned controls. As concentration increased on 15 June, salable yield decreased linearly. Fruit size (diameter and individual weight) increased with reductions in salable yield. Interestingly, fruit were evenly distributed along shoots after Release® LC treatment, similar to those found after hand-thinning. Release® LC will be available for commercial chemical thinning of stone fruit in California during 1995. Additional results from peach and other stone fruit will be presented.

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Stephen M. Southwick, W. Krueger, J.T. Yeager and J. Osgood

French prunes (Prunus domestica L.) on myrobalan seedling rootstock were planted in 1981 in an east-west direction with 4.9 m between rows and 2.7 m between trees on a poorly drained Class II soil in Glenn County, CA. A randomized complete block design was used with 8 trees per plot. Trees were pruned by hand to an open-center tree form or pruned by machine to a pyramid form in the dormant or summer season resulting in 6 pruning treatments. This high density system has led to high yields of good quality fruit (9.18 dry tons/acre in 1989, sized at 78 fruit per pound). Hand pruning led to higher yields, larger fruit, lower drying ratios and a greater dollar return per acre than any of the machine pruned trees. Dormant machine pruning led to larger fruit produced than those trees pruned in the summer by machine. Mechanical pruning may be possible for short time periods, but continued practice led to smaller fruit with lower yields than hand pruning. Certain locations within the tree canopy had smaller fruit size and it is within those lower locations where fruit size needs to be improved. These and additional experimental results obtained from 1987 through 1989 growing seasons will be presented.

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Kitren G. Weis, Stephen M. Southwick and George C. Martin

Gibberellic acid reduces return bloom in many fruit tree species. Reducing bloom may cut costs of hand thinning apricot, peach and plum fruit. Sprays of 250 ppm GA, during floral bud evocation (June 1993) resulted in bud death and abscission as determined by light microscopy sections in `Patterson' apricot (Prunus armeniaca L). GA treatment in May did not cause observable effects. August treatments, immediately prior to floral initiation, did not impede differentiation. Treatment of `Elegant Lady' peach (Prunus persica [L.] Batsch.) buds with 75-250 ppm GA, in late June, 1993 (evocation phase) did not have any discernable effects in that season with respect to abscission or differentiation. Treated peach buds differentiated simultaneously with untreated buds in early August. The patterns of response to GA treatment imply `windows of opportunity' with respect to effectiveness of GA treatments. The specific response suggests that apricot buds possess differing levels of sensitivity to GA treatment and probably reflect distinct phases in transition to flowering. In August buds were already `determined' and were in a potentially floral state that was irreversible.

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Darush Struss, Riaz Ahmad, Stephen M. Southwick and Manuela Boritzki

Simple sequence repeats (SSRs) and amplified fragment-length polymorphisms (AFLPs) were used to evaluate sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) cultivars using quality DNA extracted from fruit flesh and leaves. SSR markers were developed from a phage library using genomic DNA of the sweet cherry cultivar Valerij Tschkalov. Microsatellite containing clones were sequenced and 15 specific PCR primers were selected for identification of cultivars in sweet cherry and for cross-species amplification in Prunus. In total, 48 alleles were detected by 15 SSR primer pairs, with an average of 3.2 putative alleles per primer combination. The number of putative alleles ranged from one to five in the tested cherry cultivars. Forty polymorphic fragments were scored in the tested cherry cultivars by 15 SSRs. All sweet cherry cultivars were identified by SSRs from their unique fingerprints. We also demonstrated that the technique of using DNA from fruit flesh for analysis can be used to maintain product purity in the market place by comparing DNA fingerprints from 12 samples of `Bing' fruit collected from different grocery stores in the United States to that of a standard `Bing' cultivar. Results indicated that, with one exception, all `Bing'samples were similar to the standard. Amplification of more than 80% of the sweet cherry primer pairs in plum (P. salicina), apricot (P. armeniaca) and peach (P. persica L.) showed a congeneric relationship within Prunus species. A total of 63 (21%) polymorphic fragments were recorded in 15 sweet cherry cultivars using four EcoRI-MseI AFLP primer combinations. AFLP markers generated unique fingerprints for all sweet cherry cultivars. SSRs and AFLP polymorphic fragments were used to calculate a similarity matrix and to perform UPGMA cluster analysis. Most of the cultivars were grouped according to their pedigree. The SSR and AFLP molecular markers can be used for the grouping and identification of sweet cherry cultivars as a complement to pomological studies. The new SSRs developed here could be used in cherry as well as in other Prunus species for linkage mapping, evolutionary and taxonomic study.

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Stephen M. Southwick, Kitren G. Weis and James T. Yeager

Hand thinning fruit is required every season to ensure large fruit size of `Loadel' cling peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] in California. Chemical thinning may lower costs of hand thinning. A surfactant, Armothin {[N,N-bis 2-(omega-hydroxypolyoxyethylene/polyoxypropylene) ethyl alkylamine]; AKZO-Nobel, Chicago; AR}, was sprayed at 80% of full bloom (FB), FB, and FB + 3 days. The spray volume was 935 liters/ha. Concentrations of AR were 1%, 3%, and 5% (v/v). An early hand thinning in late April, a normal hand thinning at 13 days before standard reference date (early May), and a nonthinned control were compared to bloom-thinned trees for set, yield, and fruit quality. AR resulted in no damage to fruit; however, slight leaf yellowing and burn and small shoot dieback were seen at the 5% concentration. Fruit set, and therefore, the number of fruit that had to be hand thinned, were reduced with 3% AR applied at 80% FB and 5% AR applied at all bloom phenophases (stages of bloom development). Thinning time was reduced by 37% (5% AR applied at 80% FB), 28% (5% applied at FB), and by 20% (3% applied at 80% of FB), compared to the normally hand-thinned control. Although AR resulted in early size (cross suture diameter and weight) advantages, at harvest there were no significant differences in fruit size among all AR treatments and the normally hand-thinned control. Total and salable yields of AR treatments and the normally hand-thinned control were equal. Armothin shows promise for chemical thinning of peach when used as a bloom thinner.

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Murray Clayton, William V. Biasi, I. Tayfun Agar, Stephen M. Southwick and Elizabeth J. Mitcham

`Bing' sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) trees were treated with hydrogen cyanamide (CH2N2) or calcium ammonium nitrate (CaNH4NO3) during dormancy, or gibberellic acid (GA3) 26 days before harvest during three consecutive years. Fruit were evaluated at harvest for sensory taste quality using twenty trained panelists sampling for firmness, sweetness, tartness, and cherry flavor. Nondestructive instrumental firmness preceded destructive sensory firmness on the same untreated and GA3-treated cherries in one year when used as a supplementary evaluation. Sensory firmness was consistently higher in GA3 fruit and to a lesser extent in CH2N2 fruit than in CaNH4NO3 and untreated fruit. Instrumental firmness of GA3 fruit did not increase significantly compared with untreated fruit yet instrumental firmness of each treatment correlated relatively well with perceived sensory firmness. Sensory sweetness and cherry flavor scored very similarly, yet both attributes simultaneously varied between treatments across the years. Perceived sensory tartness of treated fruit was variable among years; yet, on average, was rated among treated and untreated fruit as similar. Under the assumption that elevated sensory firmness, sweetness, and cherry flavor intensity reflects improved sweet cherry quality, GA3 fruit were rated of higher quality than untreated fruit given their increased firmness and similar or occasionally elevated sweetness and cherry flavor intensity. CH2N2 fruit maintained quality similar to that of untreated fruit, despite often having marginally higher firmness, due to similar or reduced ratings for sweetness and cherry flavor intensity. Notwithstanding similar firmness between CaNH4NO3 and untreated cherries, sensory quality of CaNH4NO3-treated cherries was reduced due to their often-diminished levels of perceived sweetness and cherry flavor.

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Murray Clayton, William V. Biasi, I. Tayfun Agar, Stephen M. Southwick and Elizabeth J. Mitcham

During three consecutive years, 'Bing' sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) trees were treated during dormancy with the dormancy-manipulating compounds, CH2N2 or CaNH4NO3, or were treated with the plant growth regulator GA3 at straw color development. Fruit of a range of maturities, based on skin color, were evaluated for quality following harvest and simulated transit and market storage conditions. At comparable maturities, CH2N2 and GA3 fruit were of similar firmness and were consistently firmer than CaNH4NO3-treated and untreated fruit across years, storage regimes, and maturities. CaNH4NO3 and untreated fruit were of similar firmness. CH2N2-treated cherries were larger than fruit of other treatments, but only marginally with respect to variation in fruit size between years. Contraction of fruit diameter occurred after 3 days storage, but ceased thereafter up to 11 days storage. Soluble solids and titratable acidity varied between years, storage regimes, and maturities. Strong interactions of treatment and year concealed possible treatment effects on these indices. GA3 fruit contained fewer surface pits in one year while CH2N2 fruit suffered less shrivel in another. The earlier harvest date for CH2N2 fruit often avoided higher field temperatures and the resulting promotion of postharvest shrivel. Pitting and shrivel were more prevalent in stored fruit. Brown stem discoloration developed in storage, occurring most frequently in mature fruit, although methyl bromide-fumigated fruit were particularly susceptible. This disorder was more common in GA3 fruit during years of high incidence. Chemical names used: gibberellic acid (GA3); calcium ammonium nitrate (CaNH4NO3); hydrogen cyanamide (CH2N2).

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Stephen M. Southwick, James T. Yeager, Joseph Osgood, Richard Buchner, William Olson and Maxwell Norton

Ten new marianna root-stocks [Prunus cerasifera Ehrh. × P. munsoniana Wight & Hedr.(?)] derived from open pollination of `Marianna 2616' (M series) were planted in 1987 and evaluated at four commercial orchard locations in California (Tehama, Butte, Sutter, and Merced counties) with `Improved French' prune (P. domestica L.) as the scion. These rootstocks were compared to three standard rootstocks: `Marianna 2624', myrobalan seedling (P. cerasifera Ehrh.) and `Myrobalan 29C'. Leaf potassium (K) and nitrogen (N), tree growth, fruit production and fruit quality were measured. Selection M40 in particular had high leaf N, high leaf K (equal to `Marianna 2624' and better than the myrobalan standards), higher yield efficiency per tree, fruit size, drying characteristics, and few root suckers when compared to the three standard rootstocks. M40 is being considered for patent and release by the Pomology Department at the University of California, Davis. Selection M58 had the highest yield efficiency of any tested rootstock. Several selections had characteristics that would make expanded planting worth considering.

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Bruce D. Lampinen, Kenneth A. Shackel, Stephen M. Southwick, Bill Olson, James T. Yeager and Dave Goldhamer

The sensitivity of French prune (Prunus domestica L. syn. `Petite d'Agen') to water deprivation at various fruit growth stages was studied over 3 years in a drip-irrigated orchard. The soil was a poorly drained Rocklin fine sandy loam with a hardpan that varied from 4.75 to I m from the surface at the northern end of the orchard (shallow soil condition) to no hardpan apparent to 2 m below the surface at the southern end of the orchard (deep soil condition). Water deprivation during a) the first exponential phase of fruit growth or stage I, b) lag phase of fruit growth or stage II, c) first half of stage II, d) second half of stage II, e) second exponential fruit growth phase or stage III, and f) postharvest was compared to a fully watered control. Water deprivation caused the most severe reduction in tree water status when it was imposed over longer periods of time and during periods of high evaporative demand and also had mm-e severe effects under shallow soil conditions. Compared to the control treatment, deprivation during all of stage II (the most severe deprivation treatment) was associated with increased Ilowering, reduced fruit hydration ratio, and smaller fruit size under all soil conditions. Under deep soil conditions, deprivation during all of stage II resulted in increased return bloom, which was reflected in higher fruit loads and dry t-ha-' fruit yield. However, under shallow soil conditions, even though return bloom was increased with this treatment, fruit loads and dry t·ha-1 fruit yields were the lowest of all treatments. These differences in treatment effects in shallow vs. deep soil conditions were most likely the result of increased fruit drop, which occurred under shallow soil conditions as a result of rapid onset and increased severity ofstress. Treatments that had parallel effects in shallow and deep soil conditions resulted in statistically significant overall treatment effects, while those that had opposing effects in shallow vs. deep soil conditions did not show significant overall treatment effects. Substantial alternate hearing occurred, and, in general, dry fruit yields above ≈9 dry t·ha-1 resulted in a decrease in fruit load the following year, while loads below this value showed a subsequent increase. Based on a separate estimate of the theoretically stable value for each treatment, all deprivation treatments resulted in a higher sustainable fruit load compared to the fully irrigated control. This suggests that, for the purpose of prune fruit production, there may be an optimal level of tree water stress.

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Stephen M. Southwick, Kitren G. Weis, James T. Yeager and Hong Zhou

Whole-tree sprays of Release LC [predominantly gibberellic acid] (GA,) were applied in a commercial peach [Prunus perisca (L.) Batsch.] orchard in the California Central Valley on three dates from mid-June (about 90 days after full bloom = 28 days before harvest) to late July (14 days postharvest) 1993 at 50, 75, 100, and 120 mg·liter-1. Gibberellin (GA) reduced the number of flowers differentiated in 1993, thereby reducing fruit density in 1994, when sprays were applied by early July 1993. Sprays in late July did not reduce flowering and fruiting density in the following year. In 1994, there were fewer fruit located on the proximal third of the shoot after GA sprays of 75,100, and 120 mg-liter' applied on 15 June compared to hand-thinned controls, and reduction was linear with increase in GA rate. Fruit numbers in the middle and distal sections of shoots were reduced by all 15 June and some 9 July GA sprays, with fewer fruit as concentration increased. However, the distribution of fruit within shoot sections, after GA treatments during floral differentiation, expressed as a percentage of the total number of fruit along fruiting shoots, showed even fruiting compared with hand thinning. Due to reduced flowering in response to GA treatments in June and early July 1993, the hand-thinning requirement was significantly reduced, with no thinning required in 1994 from 15 June 1993 GA sprays. All sprays applied in early July resulted in 40% to 60% fewer fruit removed during thinning than the nontreated controls. Sprays in late July were ineffective. Sprays of GA applied in mid-June at 50,75, 100, and 120 mg·liter and sprays of 120 mg·liter-1 GA applied in early July (4 days preharvest) increased the firmness of `Loadel' cling peach (about 26% improvement in June sprays) in 1993. The salable yield of fruit (after removal of the undersized fruit) was the same on hand thinned and on non-hand thinned trees treated with GA on 15 June at 50 mg·liter-1. The salable yield of fruit was increased by GA sprays of 50 and 75 mg·liter applied on 9 July 1993 compared to controls. There were no differences in fruit size (by weight or diameter) among the aforementioned treatments and hand thinning. GA sprays of 75,100, and 120 mg-liter' applied on 15 June 1993 tended to reduce salable yield, but fruit size increased with decreased yield. Based on the results obtained in 1993 and 1994, we believe that Release LC has good potential for chemically thinning peaches in California.