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  • Author or Editor: Stephen M. Southwick x
  • HortTechnology x
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Selection and propagation of rootstocks for apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) varies worldwide in response to local climate, soils, and cultivars. In this paper we review published research focused on these local selective practices. Additionally, we review the current development of apricot rootstocks and suggest new research avenues to satisfy the needs of commercial apricot growers. Rootstocks are identified by their responses to biotic and environmental stresses, with specific adaptive characteristics that enable establishment and production under unique zonal ecologies. Desirable characteristics include scion compatibility, adaptation for heavy or wet soils, pest and disease resistance, ease of propagation, control of vegetative vigor, effects on dormant season physiology of the scion, precocity, fruit quality, and productivity. Interstocks that can overcome incompatible rootstock-scion combinations are covered. As worldwide consumer demand for apricots increases with improved apricot cultivars, rootstock selections and propagation must be developed for niche fruit with specific characteristics, intensive production systems, mechanized harvest, and marginal site selection.

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Many commercially grown stone fruit including apricots (Prunus armeniaca L.), peaches and nectarines [P. persica (L.) Batsch], plums (P. salicina Lindl., P. domestica L.), prunes (P. domestica L.), and pluots (P. salicina × P. 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 necessary in most Prunus L. species to ensure that remaining fruit attain marketable size and reduce biennial bearing. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to find chemical or physical techniques that would help to reduce the costs associated with and improve efficiencies of hand thinning, however, alternate strategies to hand thinning have not been widely adopted for stone fruit production. In the past 10 years, several chemical treatments have shown promise for reducing hand thinning needs in stone fruit. Management of flowering by chemically reducing the number of flowers has been particularly promising on stone fruit in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California. Gibberellins (GAs) applied during May through July, have reduced flowering in the following season in many stone fruit cultivars without affecting percentage of flowers producing fruit. As a result, fruit numbers are reduced, the need for hand thinning is reduced and in some cases eliminated, and better quality fruit are produced. 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, the benefits may outweigh the risks. This paper reviews relevant literature on thinning of stone fruit by gibberellins, and summarizes research reports of fruit thinning with GAs conducted between 1987 and the present in California. The term thin or chemically thin with regard to the action of GA on floral buds is used in this paper, consistent with the literature, although the authors recognize that the action of GA is primarily to inhibit the initiation of floral apices, rather than reduce the number of preformed flowers. At relatively high concentrations, GA may also kill floral buds. Chemical names used: gibberellic acid, potassium gibberellate.

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In 1994, we established that a surfactant, Armothin (AR), reduced fruit set when applied as 3% and 5% AR at 100 gal/acre with a Stihl mistblower to `Loadel' clingstone peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch]. In 1995 we compared 3% AR at volumes of 100 and 200 gal/acre (935 and 1870 L.ha-1, the volumes most commonly used by tree fruit growers in California) applied with commercial airblast sprayer; overthinning resulted with the latter. In 1996, we applied 3% AR at 100 gal/acre and 1% AR at 200 gal/acre. In 1995, differential applications of 3% AR at 100 gal/acre (two-thirds of the material applied to either the upper or lower canopy) reduced fruit set in the upper canopy in proportion to the amount of chemical applied (twice as much fruit set reduction with twice as much chemical); fruit set in the lower canopy was reduced by an equal amount regardless of amount of chemical used. Salable yields, equivalent to those obtained by hand thinning, and improved fruit size were achieved with all treatments of 3% AR at 100 gal/acre in 1995 with a 76% reduction in hand thinning. Following a low-chill winter (1995-96) with a protracted bloom, flower bud density (return bloom) was significantly greater in 1995 AR-treated trees. In 1996, treatment with AR did not result in fruit set reduction due to the protracted bloom and poor weather conditions before and after bloom. Nonetheless, 1% AR at 200 gal/acre applied in 1996 increased salable yield and increased final fruit mass. Return bloom in 1997 was equal among 1996 treatments.

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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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