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  • Author or Editor: Stephen M. Southwick x
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Commercially grown apricots (Prunus armeniaca), peaches (Prunus persica), nectarines (Prunus persica), plums (Prunus salicina and Prunus domestica), and pluots (Prunus salicina × Prunus armeniaca) have a tendency to produce high numbers of flowers. These flowers often set and produce more fruit than trees can adequately size to meet market standards. When excessive fruit set occurs, removal of fruit by hand-thinning is common to ensure that fruit size meets market standards. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to find chemical or physical techniques that would help to reduce costs associated with and improve efficiencies of hand-thinning; however, using alternate strategies to hand-thinning have not been widely adopted in stone fruit production. In the past 10 years, through the continuing efforts of scientists throughout the world in public and private institutions and business, it appears that there are chemical sprays capable of reducing the need for hand-thinning in stone fruit. Management of flowering by reducing the number of flowers on apricot, peach, nectarine, plum, and prune has shown promise under climatic conditions such as those found in the San Joaquin Valley of California. By applying gibberellins during May through July, flowers in many stone fruit cultivars can be reduced in the following season. The reduction in flower number does not generally lead to an increase in fruit set. As a result, fruit numbers are reduced, the need for hand thinning can be reduced, and in some cases eliminated. There are risks associated with reducing flower number before climatic conditions during bloom or final fruit set are known. However, given the changes in labor costs and market demands, especially in the developed world, the benefits may outweigh the risks. The application and implications of these summer gibberellin applications toward reducing flower numbers will be discussed as it relates to commercial stone fruit growing.

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Secondary bloom provides fireblight infection sites in pears (Pyrus communis L.) growing in the western U.S. Five types of secondary bloom occur in `Bartlett', and one of these, Type V, occurs mainly as a result of pruning. We examined the effect of pruning dates (Feb. to Sept. 1999), shoot age ranging from 1 to 4 years old, and type of pruning cut (i.e., heading, stubbing, or thinning) on Type V secondary bloom. Pruning date was a significant factor determining whether Type V would occur. There was a greater chance for Type V to occur from pruning in February or March than for pruning from May through September. There was an increase in Type V with increase in shoot age when pruning 11 Feb., 17 Mar., 14 May, or 11 Aug. There was no shoot age effect when pruning 18 June or 30 Sept. Type of pruning cut affected the number of Type V that occurred when pruning 14 May, 18 June, or 11 Aug., but the effect of type of pruning cut was inconsistent between these dates. There was no effect of type of pruning cut when pruning 11 Feb., 17 Mar., or 30 Sept. These results indicate that summer or postharvest pruning may reduce the number of Type V secondary bloom, particularly on shoots older than one year. This information can be used to develop a pruning strategy that reduces the number of Type V secondary bloom and potentially the number of fireblight infection sites.

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Heavy fruit set of apricot (Prunus armeniaca) cultivars grown in California often require hand thinning to insure that adequate fruit size is obtained. Alternatives to costly hand thinning would be welcome. GA treatments made during flower bud initiation/differentiation have been previously shown to inhibit the development of floral and vegetative buds in a number of different tree fruit species. The effects of post-harvest limb and whole tree aqueous gibberellic acid (GA) sprays on flower and fruit production were investigated over a 3 year period in `Patterson' apricot. Limb treatments indicated the potential for utilizing postharvest GA sprays to reduce the number of flowers produced in the following season. Harvest fruit size (June 1989) was increased by a 100 mg·liter-1 GA whole tree spray applied 7 July 1988 when compared to non-thinned and hand thinned trees. Yield per tree was reduced by that GA spray, but not enough to show statistical differences. No abnormal tree growth responses have been observed in GA-sprayed trees to date. These results and those from the 1989 and 1990 growing seasons will be presented in effort to identify a role for whole tree postharvest GA sprays in a chemical thinning program suitable for commercial apricots.

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Sweet cherries produce vigorous upright growth from Apr.-Sept. and are slow to bear in California. Our tree training objectives include earlier bearing, easier harvesting, high productivity of good quality fruit. `Bing' cherry on mazzard and mahaleb rootstock were planted in 7 blocks and trained 6 ways. One group was headed 12-18 inches above the bud union and 4 branches were retained at the 1st dormant pruning. Lateral buds were treated with promalin at bud-break to induce lateral shoot formation. Trees were spring-summer pruned to reduce terminal growth. At the second dormant pruning, strong shoots were removed and lateral shoots were treated with promalin to induce spur formation. Trees were treated likewise through the 3rd dormant season and produced a fair crop in the 4th season. Central leader trees were created by tying/weighting limbs, dormant and summer pruning, and retaining less vigorous limbs as well as utilizing promalin. Slow growing trees tended to bear fruit more rapidly. Both training methods yielded fruit in the 4th season while traditional pruning procedures produced few fruit. Data and procedures will be presented to document these practices.

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Abstract

Ethylene production by senescing flowers of calamondin (Citrus madurensis Lour.), at rates as high as 15 nl/g fresh weight-hour did not necessarily induce absicission. Moreover, combinations of gibberellic acid (GA), calcium dihydrophosphate and 6-benzylamino purine (BA), which are known to increase fruit set in citrus, did not significantly decrease ethylene production. Abscission of calamondin fruitlets and increases in fruit set appear to be independent of ethylene production.

Open Access

`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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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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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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Abstract

The effect of initial heading height on primary branch development in ‘Bing’ sweet cherry (Prunus avium) was examined in the first year of growth. Trees headed 51 cm above the soil surface resulted in fewer primary branches produced by 1-year-old trees than those headed at 75 cm and delay-headed at 142 cm, respectively. Branches on trees with lower heading height had narrow angles and longer branches than those on trees that were headed higher. Trees delay-headed at 142 cm produced the greatest number of primary branches with the widest crotch angles and shortest branch length. Branches were distributed along the entire length of the main leader in each treatment, but more branches with narrow angles and longer lengths were located 50 cm below the heading cut along the tree trunk. A significant linear relationship existed between branch angle and branch length in the 0- to 50-, 50- to 100-, and 100- to 142-cm sections along the tree trunk.

Open Access

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).

Free access