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  • Author or Editor: Steven J. McArtney x
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Ethylene evolution from detached fruiting apple spurs was measured after application of various bloom and post-bloom thinning agents. Ethylene evolution from fresh detached spurs of `Splendor' apple trees increased one day after application of a bloom thinning spray of ethephon or NAA, and remained higher than rates of ethylene evolution by detached spurs from unsprayed control trees for 6 (NAA) or 10 (ethephon) days. Both ethylene evolution and fruit abscission during the initial drop period were higher on trees treated with ethephon compared to NAA, however final fruit set was similar for these two treatments. Ethylene evolution was significantly higher following NAA application onto `Fuji' trees compared with NAAm, but final fruit set was reduced by a similar amount (≈20%) for both of these materials. Application of BA to `Pacific Rose™' apple trees when the average diameter of spur fruit was either 4 mm (6 days after full bloom) or 7 mm (12 days after full bloom) resulted in a significant increase in the rate of ethylene evolution and also reduced final fruit set. When application of BA was delayed until the average diameter of spur fruit was 14 mm (24 days after full bloom) neither the rate of ethylene evolution or final fruit set was affected. Although an increase in the rate of ethylene evolution was a prerequisite for thinning in the present experiments, the magnitude of this increase was not related to the final thinning efficacy. Chemical names used: benzyladenine (BA); 2-chloroethyl phosphonic acid (ethephon); naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA); naphthalene acetamide (NAAm).

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A single spray of either GA3 or GA4+7 at full bloom reduced the severity of the alternate bearing cycle of `Braeburn' apples, measured as the proportion of flowering spurs over the 2 years following treatment. Increasing the concentration of GA3 applied in the light-flowering year linearly reduced the proportion of flowering spurs in the following year and linearly increased the proportion of flowering spurs 2 years after treatment. Application of GA3 or GA4+7 at full bloom inhibited flower bud formation on spurs only, whereas, in a separate experiment, GA3 or GA7 applied later than 8 weeks after bloom inhibited flower bud formation on 1-year wood only. Thus, delayed GA treatments may provide suitable technology for the selective removal of fruit from 1-year wood in apple.

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`Braeburn' apple trees were treated with GA3 or GA7 at either 100, 200, or 400 mg·L-1, 2 years after being grafted onto 4-year-old `Royal Gala'/MM.106 trees in order to evaluate their effects on flower bud formation. Inhibition of flowering was observed on 1-year wood only and not on spurs in response to GA treatments applied later than 6 weeks after bloom. GA7 was a more potent inhibitor of flowering than GA3. These results indicate that GA treatments may provide a useful technology for the selective removal of flowers from 1-year wood in apple and may also provide a useful tool for overcoming biennial bearing in apple by inhibiting flower bud formation when applied in the light-cropping year of the biennial cycle.

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Experiments were carried out in the southeastern United States between 1998 and 2006 to evaluate the potential for applications of NAA, Ethrel, or both, in the on-year of a biennial bearing cycle to increase return bloom in apple. Four bi-weekly applications of 5 ppm NAA beginning in mid June (summer NAA) increased return bloom, measured as the percentage of floral spurs in the year after treatment. The level of return bloom on trees receiving a summer NAA program was more than 2-fold higher than on untreated control trees, averaged across seven different experiments. Four applications of 5 ppm NAA at weekly intervals leading up to harvest (August/September) increased return bloom also. Combining 150 ppm Ethrel with summer NAA sprays resulted in an additive effect on return bloom compared to NAA or Ethrel alone. The effect of flower cluster density on return bloom the following year was more negative on control trees than it was on trees sprayed with Ethrel in the previous year. Treatment effects on fruit maturity at harvest were generally neutral, although flesh firmness was reduced in some experiments. NAA or Ethrel sprays in the on-year of a biennial bearing cycle may provide a strategy for achieving more consistent flowering and cropping in apple.

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The normal window for application of thinning chemicals in apple extends from bloom until 3 weeks after bloom, when the fruit reach a mean diameter of ≈16 mm. After this time fruit are generally insensitive to standard chemical thinning sprays. The potential for the photosystem II (PSII) inhibitor metamitron and the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid (ACC) to thin apple fruit after the traditional thinning window was investigated in field experiments over three years. A standard rescue thinning spray of carbaryl plus ethephon plus naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) reduced fruit set of Gale ‘Gala’ if applied when the mean fruit diameter was 18, 20, and 27 mm in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. The thinning activity of 400 mg·L−1 ACC was equivalent to the standard rescue thinning spray in 2010, whereas 350 mg·L−1 metamitron reduced fruit set more effectively than either the standard or ACC in 2010. Application of 400 mg·L−1 ACC plus 350 mg·L−1 metamitron when the mean fruit diameter was 18 mm reduced fruit set to almost no crop in 2010. The combination of metamitron plus ACC exhibited thinning activity after application at 25 and 33 mm mean fruit diameter in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Increased ethylene evolution was found in detached ‘GoldRush’ fruit 24 h after applications of ACC from 11 mm to 27 mm mean fruit diameter, but not when ACC was applied at 31 mm mean fruit diameter. Ethylene evolution was much higher after application of ACC at the 11 mm or 17 mm mean fruit diameter stage compared with application when fruit diameter was 23 mm or 27 mm. The thinning activity of ACC was related to the period of maximum ethylene response. The effects of delayed applications of ACC and metamitron on fruit set tended to be greater when these two chemicals were combined, suggesting that the creation of a carbohydrate stress and the capacity to convert ACC to ethylene are both required to trigger abscission of apple fruit larger than 18 mm in diameter.

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Early season vegetative development of grapevines was studied in the year after imposing three cropping levels to mature `Seyval' vines in the field or establishing two light levels to potted `DeChaunac' vines growing in the greenhouse. Heavily cropped `Seyval' vines (averaging 90 buds, 15.8 kg fruit per vine over the previous two growing seasons) had 85% fewer count buds and 31% fewer non-count (latent) buds than lightly cropped vines (averaging 25 buds, 9.7 kg fruit per vine). The rate of leaf area expansion was reduced on heavily cropped vines. Covering `DeChaunac' vines in the greenhouse with 80% shade from bloom onwards reduced the leaf area per shoot in the year after treatment by reducing both the rate of leaf appearance and the rate of leaf expansion. The leaf at node four from the base of the shoot had the greatest area on both shaded and control vines; however, the area was reduced 33% on shaded vines. Data from the greenhouse experiment were used to model the effect of leaf size at the transition from sink to source on total source leaf area per shoot. Prior to bloom the total source leaf area per shoot was increased when individual leaves became sources earlier, i.e., at a lower percent of their final size. Whether a leaf became a source at either 30%, 50%, or 80% of its final size had little effect on total source leaf area per shoot after bloom. The proportion of source to sink leaf area at bloom was greater than 90% for both slow- and rapidly growing shoots (those on shaded and control vines, respectively). Expansion of grapevine leaves was reduced by heavy cropping and low light levels in the previous year, greatly reducing the source leaf area per shoot.

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A series of four experiments were undertaken to evaluate the effects of individual and combined applications of prohexadione-Ca (P-Ca) and GA4+7 primarily on fruit russet, but also on fruit set, fruit weight, early season shoot growth, and fruit maturity of ‘Golden Delicious’ apples (Malus × domestica Borkh.). A single application of P-Ca (138 to 167 mg·L−1) at petal fall (PF) reduced the severity of russet in three of the four experiments; however, multiple applications of 20 ppm GA4+7 at 10-day intervals beginning at PF generally reduced russet more effectively than P-Ca. P-Ca did not reduce the efficacy of GA4+7 sprays for russet reduction. However, GA4+7 sprays reduced the inhibitory effects of P-Ca on shoot growth measured 30 days after PF. A single application of P-Ca at PF had no effect on mean fruit weight at harvest. Fruit size was lowest for the combined P-Ca and GA4+7 treatment in every experiment, although there was a significant interaction between P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays on mean fruit weight in only one experiment. There were no consistent effects of P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays, alone or in combination, on fruit maturity parameters at harvest. These data show that a single application of P-Ca at PF reduced russet severity, and the effects of P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays on russet can be additive. The economic benefits resulting from a reduction in russet severity after combined P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays will need to be balanced against their occasional negative effect on fruit size. Chemical names used: prohexadione-calcium [3-oxido-4-propionyl-5-oxo-3 cyclohexenecarboxylate formulated as Apogee (27.5% a.i.)].

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The effects of foliar applications of the photosystem II (PSII) inhibitor metamitron on chlorophyll fluorescence and fruit set were compared in peach and apple trees. Metamitron increased dark-adapted chlorophyll fluorescence, measured as a reduction in Fv/Fm values, in both peaches and apples. Maximum suppression of the normalized ratio of variable fluorescence to maximum fluorescence (Fv/Fm) in peaches occurred 1 to 2 days after application and Fv/Fm values recovered by 7 days after treatment. The effects of metamitron on chlorophyll fluorescence were more persistent in apples compared with peaches. Fv/Fm values in apple declined within 2 days of treatment and did not start recovering until 5 days after treatment or longer. Concentrations of metamitron greater than 200 mg·L−1 were phytotoxic to peach leaves, reducing the leaf chlorophyll concentration as determined by SPAD measurements. At 300 mg·L−1, metamitron reduced fruit set in apple but not in peach. Inclusion of a non-ionic surfactant (Silwett L-77) with metamitron greatly increased its negative effect on Fv/Fm, quantum photosynthetic yield of PSII (ΦPSII), and relative electron transport rate (ETR). These results suggest that metamitron may be a useful thinner in apple but not in peach. Additional information is needed to understand how combining metamitron with existing thinning chemicals might enhance their activity. In particular, caution may be necessary if metamitron is applied as a tank mixture with commercial thinning products that have been formulated with a wetting agent.

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Experiments were conducted to compare the effects of different preharvest and postharvest 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) treatment combinations on ‘Law Rome’ and ‘Golden Delicious’ apple fruit. Preharvest 1-MCP sprays had minimal effects on maturity as determined by flesh firmness, starch index, internal ethylene concentration, and soluble solids concentration. Fruit internal ethylene concentration and firmness loss after 30- to 40-days storage at 0 °C plus 7 days at 20 °C were reduced by preharvest and postharvest 1-MCP treatments. The positive effects of preharvest 1-MCP on postharvest quality of ‘Law Rome’ declined in fruit that were harvested 3 days or more after spraying, whereas preharvest 1-MCP continued to have a positive effect on postharvest fruit quality of ‘Golden Delicious’ that were harvested up to 9 days after spraying. The loss in postharvest effects of preharvest 1-MCP treatment on ‘Law Rome’ at delayed harvests was reinstated by exposing fruit to gaseous 1-MCP on the day of harvest. These findings suggest that attached apple fruit of some cultivars may be capable of rapidly generating new ethylene receptors.

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Fruit set of apple can be reduced by cloudy weather, short-term shade treatments, or application of photosynthetic inhibitors when the young fruit are ≈8 to 15 mm in diameter, indicating that fruit are sensitive to a transient carbohydrate stress during this period. We investigated the potential for S-abscisic acid (ABA) and an ABA analog [(+)-8′-acetylene ABA] to chemically thin apple fruit by causing a stomatal limitation of photosynthesis. Stomatal conductance (g S) of ‘Imperial Gala’/M.7 was reduced by 60% 3 h after application of 250 mg·L−1 ABA or 25 mg·L−1 (+)-8′-acetylene ABA. Stomatal conductance began to recover 4 days after application but did not return to control levels until 19 days after treatment. Application of 250 mg·L−1 ABA combined with 100 mg·L−1 6-benzyladenine (6-BA) when mean fruit diameter was ≈10 mm reduced fruit set of ‘Gala’/M.7 but not ‘Pink Lady™’/M.7 or ‘Morganspur Delicious’/MM.111. Fruit set of ‘Pink Lady™’/M.7 was reduced by application of 20 mg·L−1 (+)-8′-acetylene ABA + 100 mg·L−1 6-BA at full bloom or 10 mg·L−1 (+)-8′-acetylene ABA + 100 mg·L−1 6-BA at the 10-mm fruit diameter stage. Fruit set of ‘Morganspur Delicious’/MM.111 was reduced by application of 25 mg·L−1 (+)-8′-acetylene ABA, either alone or in combination with 75 mg·L−1 6-BA, at the 10-mm fruit diameter stage. ABA and (+)-8′-acetylene ABA triggered leaf abscission at rates above 250 mg·L−1 and 25 mg·L−1, respectively. Fruit set and g S data from the present studies indicate the biological activity of (+)-8′-acetylene ABA is 10-fold higher than ABA. These results suggest that ABA and (+)-8′-acetylene ABA reduced fruit set by causing a stomatal limitation in photosynthesis that resulted in a transient carbohydrate stress. Thinning responses to ABA and (+)-8′-acetylene ABA at the concentrations used in these experiments were reduced compared with standard concentrations of currently available chemical thinning agents. However, increasing the concentration of ABA or (+)-8′-acetylene ABA to levels that would achieve comparable thinning are also likely to result in unacceptable leaf abscission.

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