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  • Author or Editor: Ockert P.J. Stander x
  • Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science x
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The objectives of this study were to improve the understanding of the mechanism of alternate bearing and the role of carbohydrates in ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata) trees. Selected phenological responses were measured in natural heavy- (“on”) and low-fruiting (“off”) ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin trees grown under commercial South African production conditions. The relationships with seasonal leaf and root carbohydrate concentrations were evaluated at the shoot-, branch- and tree level over two seasons. Fruit load [R 2 = (−)0.80 and R 2 = (−)0.73 in seasons 1 and 2, respectively; (P < 0.01)] and the number of newly developed vegetative shoots [R 2 = 0.81 and R 2 = 0.78 in seasons 1 and 2, respectively; (P < 0.01)] were the most important determinants of return bloom. Sprouting of a higher number of new vegetative shoots from “off” trees compared with “on” trees (“off” = 863 and 1439 vs. “on” = 306 and 766) was not related to leaf carbohydrate concentration. Root sugar concentration peaked during full bloom and higher root growth activity was observed before a higher number of new vegetative shoots developing in “off” trees during summer. The root sugar concentration early in the season was ≈3-fold lower, and root and shoot growth were absent, or lower in “on” trees compared with “off” trees. These results concur with previous research and confirm that fruit load in “on” trees inhibits summer vegetative shoot development, which manifests in poor flowering and an “off” year. This study shows that fruit are the major carbohydrate sink and probably disturb the balance between vegetative shoot development and root growth by limiting carbohydrate allocation to roots.

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