This article reports on the physiological effects and horticultural benefits of chemical blossom thinners on 9-year-old and 12-year-old `Bing'/`Gisela®5′ sweet cherry trees in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Chemical thinning agents were applied at 20% and 80% full bloom (FB) by air-blast sprayer and were comprised of: 2% ammonium thiosulphate (ATS), 4% vegetable oil emulsion (VOE), 2% fish oil + 2.5% lime sulfur (FOLS), 1% tergitol, and an untreated control. Leaf gas exchange, leaf SPAD meter readings, chlorophyll fluorescence parameters, fruit yield, and fruit quality were evaluated. FOLS, tergitol, VOE, and ATS suppressed leaf net CO2 exchange rate (NCER) by 33%, 30%, 28%, and 18%, respectively, over a variable length recovery period directly after 80% FB treatment. Leaf NCER recovered fully from every thinning treatment. Reductions in leaf NCER were unrelated to gS. VOE reduced estimated leaf chlorophyll content the greatest, suppressing overall levels by 11% for 23 days after treatment. All blossom thinners reduced constant fluorescence (Fo). No thinning agent reduced fruit set or yield in 2004. ATS, FOLS, and tergitol reduced fruit set in 2005. VOE was ineffective as a thinner yet exhibited significant leaf phytotoxicity. Among thinners, there was no relationship between inhibition of leaf NCER and thinning efficacy.
Styrax americanus Lam. (American snowbell) is a deciduous shrub or small tree seldom produced in nurseries. This species is distributed in patchy populations found mainly from Florida to southern Illinois, although a small, disjunct population exists in northern Illinois. The winter-hardiness and loss of hardiness during a period of increased temperature (deacclimation) of plants from this disjunct population may differ from those of S. americanus elsewhere. We examined cold-hardiness and deacclimation of stems of plants from the disjunct population, from southern Illinois, and from Florida. Segments of stems removed from plants grown outdoors in Ames, IA, were exposed to low-temperature ramping, and the temperature at which stems showed 50% damage (LT50) was determined by using the tissue-discoloration method. To assess deacclimation, stem segments were collected from cold-acclimated plants during winter in a minimally heated greenhouse and exposed to controlled warm temperatures for various time intervals followed by low-temperature ramping. Plants from Illinois were ≈15 °C more cold-hardy than plants from Florida in Feb. 2008. Plants from the disjunct population in northern Illinois showed less stem tip injury than did plants from southern Illinois. Deacclimation patterns were similar between plants from both Illinois populations. Plants sampled in Apr. 2009 from Florida deacclimated more rapidly than corresponding samples from Illinois, and the chilling required to overcome endodormancy increased with increasing latitude of plant origin. This research suggests that germplasm from the Illinois populations should be used in regions where the poorer hardiness and deacclimation resistance of most S. americanus would not permit survival.
This paper reports on the potential of gibberellic acid (GA3 and GA4+7) to reduce sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) floral bud induction and balance fruit number and improve fruit quality in the season following application. In 2003, GA3 was applied to `Bing'/`Gisela 1' trees at 50 and 100 mg·L-1 at the end of stage I of fruit development, end of stage II, and on both dates. These treatments were compared to the industry standard application of 30 mg·L–1 applied at the end of stage II and an untreated control. Fruit quality was evaluated in the year of application (i.e., nontarget crop) and return bloom, fruit yield and quality were assessed in the subsequent season (2004). In 2003, GA3 delayed fruit maturity proportional to rate. In 2004, bloom density and fruit yield were related negatively and linearly to GA3 concentration. GA3 reduced the number of reproductive buds per spur and did not affect the number of flowers per reproductive bud. Nonspur flowering at the base of 1-year-old shoots was more inhibited by GA3 than flowering on spurs. Double applications significantly reduced bloom density and yield versus single applications. Trees treated with two applications of 50 and 100 mg·L–1 yielded fruit with 7% and 12% higher soluble solids, 15% and 20% higher firmness, and 7% and 14% greater weight, respectively. However, no treatment improved crop value per tree. In a separate isomer trial, GA3 and GA4+7 were applied to `Bing'/`Gisela 1' trees at 100 and 200 mg·L–1 at both the end of stage I and II in 2004. GA3 and GA4+7 applied at 100 mg·L–1 reduced bloom density similarly by 65%. GA3was more inhibiting than GA4+7at 200 mg·L–1, reducing bloom density by 92% versus 68%. We observed a 4- to 5-day delay in flowering from both GA formulations at 200 mg·L–1. At both concentrations, GA3 reduced yield by 71% and 95% versus 34% and 37% reduction by GA4+7. Fruit weight and soluble solids were unaffected but fruit firmness was increased by all treatments (6% to 17%). However, crop value per tree was highest from untreated control because improvements in fruit quality were insufficient to offset reductions in yield. GA3 shows potential as a novel crop load management tool in productive `Bing' sweet cherry orchard systems.