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  • Author or Editor: R. Nyankanga x
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Increase in plant density often results in reduction in reproductive potential of individual plants in cucurbits. The reduction may be due to reduced female flower production or a reduction or a delay in fruit set or to decreased fruit size. To determine the cause of the reduction, flowering, and fruiting of two pumpkin cultivars was evaluated in four field experiments under four plant densities ranging from 4483 plants/ha to 23,910 plants/ha and in a greenhouse using three levels of shade. Weekly flower and flower bud counts were made in the field experiment starting at first anthesis. Flowers were determined to have either set or aborted or not have reached anthesis. Increasing plant population from 4483 plants/ha to 23,910 plants/ha resulted in an increase in number of flowers per unit area up to 11,955 plants/ha, beyond which there was a steep decline. Increased plant density also resulted in an increase in aborted female flower buds that did not reach anthesis. Increase in plant density only reduced fruit set at very high populations. Number of fruits per area increased linearly with plant density up to 11,955 plants/ha, but decreased at higher plant populations. Reducing incident light by 30%, 60%, and 80% in a greenhouse experiment resulted in reduction of both male and female flowers. At 80% shade, there was a complete suppression of female flowers, whereas male flowers were still being produced. The number of female flowers reaching anthesis was positively correlated with total shoot dry weight while floral buds and male flowers were not. Reduction of individual plant biomass under high-density plantings might therefore be limiting female flower production and yield.

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High temperatures during flowering frequently limit yields of some bell pepper cultivars in New York fields. Previous research has shown that subjecting the plants to low light at flowering can have similar effects. To determine if cultivar differences in flower abscission and yield could be accentuated by such a shade stress, field plots of six cultivars were subjected to 1 week of low light during flowering. Shade cloth tunnels were erected over the plant rows in two experiments, reducing incident light by 80%. Nondestructive abscission counts were taken at the start, and 7 days after the end of a 7-day shade period. Mature green fruit were harvested periodically. Low light stress resulted in 68% and 86% abscission at the first three fruiting nodes in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Cultivars showed differential abscission in unshaded plots, and after shade, producing a significant cultivar: shade interaction. `Ace' showed least abscission and maintained yields with shading; `Camelot' lost nearly all flowers and buds with low light stress, and was reduced by 75% and 91% in marketable yield in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Results indicate that shade stress accentuates abscission susceptibility in bell pepper cultivars. Pepper lines selected for low light tolerance may show promise in resisting flower abscission at high temperature.

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