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  • Author or Editor: Carol J. Lovatt x
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The goal of this research was to identify the role essential nutrients play in the physiology of tree crops, and then to apply the nutrient as a foliar fertilizer to stimulate a specific metabolic process at phenological stages when nutrient demand is high. This approach has proven successful. A single winter prebloom foliar application of nitrogen as low-biuret urea [0.16 kg N/tree (0.35 lb N/tree)] to 30-year-old `Washington' navel orange (Citrus sinensis L. Osbeck) trees during flower initiation significantly increased yield and fruit number per tree for each of 3 consecutive years (P ≤ 0.05). The number of commercially valuable largesize fruit also increased significantly with yield increases (r 2 = 0.88). Sodium tetraborate applied foliarly to `Hass' avocado (Persea americana Mill.) trees at the cauliflower stage of inflorescence development (elongation of inflorescence secondary axes, pollen and ovule development) increased the number of pollen tubes reaching the ovule, ovule viability and cumulative yield (P ≤ 0.05). Additional examples are presented.

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Foliar fertilization efficiently meets the nutrient demand of tree fruit crops during periods when soil conditions (low or high temperatures, low or excess soil moisture, pH, salinity) render soil-applied fertilizers ineffective, when nutrients (e.g., phosphate, potassium, and trace elements) become fixed in the soil, and when tree nutrient demand is high. Applying nutrients directly to leaves ensures that the metabolic machinery of the tree is not compromised by low availability of an essential nutrient. It should be noted that phloem mobile nutrients applied to the foliage are translocated to all tree parts, even feeder roots. Because foliar application of fertilizers can reduce nutrient accumulation in soil, runoff water, surface water (streams, lakes, ocean), and groundwater (drinking water supply), where they contribute to salinity, eutrophication, or nitrate contamination, with negative consequences to the environment and humans, it is highly desirable to replace soil-applied fertilizers at least in part with foliar-applied fertilizers. However, not all nutrients are taken up through leaves and, even if taken up, some nutrients are not phloem mobile. In addition, although foliar fertilizer rates are typically lower than soil fertilizer rates, application can be more costly. The goal has been to time the application of foliar fertilizers to key stages of citrus (Citrus sp.) and avocado (Persea americana) tree phenology when demand for the nutrient is likely to be high and especially when soil conditions are likely to compromise nutrient uptake by roots. This approach has proven successful for increasing yield, fruit size, and grower income even when the tree is not nutrient deficient by standard leaf analysis. Winter prebloom foliar-applied low-biuret urea was previously documented to increase total yield of both navel and ‘Valencia’ oranges (Citrus sinensis). Adaptation of this treatment to ‘Nules’ Clementine mandarin (Citrus reticulata) increased the yield of commercially valuable size fruit in two experiments. Foliar application of boron or low-biuret urea to ‘Hass’ avocado trees at the “cauliflower” stage of inflorescence development increased total yield; potassium phosphite applied at this stage of tree phenology increased the yield of commercially valuable size fruit.

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To protect groundwater from potential nitrate pollution, `Hass' avocado (Persea americana Mill.) growers in California divide the total annual soil-applied nitrogen (N) fertilizer (N at 56 to 168 kg·ha-1) into small applications made during the period from late January to early November. However, no research had been conducted to test the efficacy of this fertilization practice, and there was concern that the amount of N in the individual applications may be too little to meet the demand of the tree at some stages of its phenology. The research presented herein addressed the question of whether yield of `Hass' avocado could be increased by doubling the amount of N currently applied during specific stages of tree phenology. The control in this experiment was the practice of annually applying N as NH4NO3 at 168 kg·ha-1 (168 trees/ha) in six small doses of N at 28 kg·ha-1 in January, February, April, June, July, and November. From these six application times, five were selected on the basis of tree phenology and additional N as NH4NO3 at 28 kg·ha-1 was applied at each time for total annual N of 196 kg·ha-1. Two phenological stages were identified for which N application at 56 kg·ha-1 in a single application (double dose of N) significantly increased the 4-year cumulative yield (kilograms fruit per tree) 30% and 39%, respectively, compared to control trees (P ≤ 0.01). In each case, more than 70% of the net increase in yield was commercially valuable large size fruit (178 to 325 g/fruit). The two phenological stages were when shoot apical buds have four or more secondary axis inflorescence meristems present (mid-November); and during anthesis to early fruit set and initiation of the vegetative shoot flush at the apex of indeterminate floral shoots (about mid-April). When the double dose of N was applied at either of these two stages, the kilograms and number of large size fruit averaged across the 4 years of the study was significantly greater than the control trees (P ≤ 0.01). Averaged across the 4 years of the study, only the November treatment increased yield compared to the control trees (P ≤ 0.05). Application of the double dose of N at flower initiation (January), during early-stage gynoecium development (February), or during June drop had no significant effect on average or cumulative yield or fruit size compared to control trees. Application of the double dose of N in April significantly reduced the severity of alternate bearing (P ≤ 0.05). Yield was not significantly correlated with leaf N concentration. Time and rate of N application are factors that can be optimized to increase yield, fruit size, and annual cropping of `Hass' avocado. When the amounts of N applied were equal (196 kg·ha-1), time of application was the more important factor.

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Previous research in our laboratory provided evidence that hydrogen cyanamide (HC) applied to grapevines (Vitis vinifera) to stimulate budbreak resulted in ethylene production, which, in addition to HC drift at application, caused abscission of leaves in neighboring `Eureka' lemon [Citrus limon (L.) Burm. F.] orchards. Foliar-applied hydrated lime [Ca(OH)2] at 140 kg per 2337 to 2807 L·ha-1 to commercial `Thompson Seedless', `Perlette', `Red Flame', or `Princess' vineyards 2–48 h after HC treatment reduced leaf abscission from 2-year-old'Eureka' lemon trees placed inside the vineyards, with no negative effects on budbreak or yield of any grape cultivar. Hydrated lime is an effective inexpensive tool that grape growers can use to protect neighboring lemon orchards.

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Alternate-bearing trees produce a heavy on-crop followed by a light off-crop. Whereas climatic events initiate alternate bearing, it is perpetuated by endogenous tree factors. For citrus, the mechanism and underlying physiology by which fruit influence floral intensity the next spring was unresolved. To determine whether reduced return bloom of on-crop trees was due to inhibition of vegetative shoot production and, thus, a lack of “wood” on which to bear next spring's inflorescences or, alternatively, to inhibition of phase transition and inflorescence development on an adequate number of vegetative shoots, fruit were removed from individual shoots monthly or from entire on-crop `Pixie' mandarin trees during periods critical to shoot initiation (summer) and phase transition (winter). Fruit removal provided clear evidence that the on-crop exerted a significant effect on return bloom during the summer by reducing summer–fall shoot growth and, hence, the number of flowers borne on these shoots as well as on old wood of fruit-bearing shoots. The on-crop had less effect in winter on phase transition and return bloom. Buds collected during the summer from on-crop `Pixie' mandarin trees were characterized by high indoleacetic acid and low isopentenyladenosine concentrations compared to buds from off-crop trees. The starch level of the buds was not affected. No differences in hormone concentrations were detected for buds collected during winter from on- and off-crop trees, but buds of on-crop trees had less starch. The results demonstrate that the on-crop reduces return bloom predominantly by inhibiting summer-fall vegetative shoot growth by a mechanism similar to apical dominance, not a lack of available carbohydrate.

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This study investigated the effect of irrigation treatments and time of foliar applications of low-biuret urea on yield of 30-yr-old navel orange trees grown under optimal N fertilization. The experiment was carried out at the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of California, Riverside, using split plot design with 12 replications. The two irrigation treatments were the mainplots and the urea applications were the subplots. Irrigation was withheld from one set of trees from October to March, the other set was irrigated according to commercial practice. Foliar-urea (0.17 kg/tree) was applied in November, December, January, or February.

The results of the first year showed no significant differences between irrigation treatments with regard to total fruit weight or total number of fruit per tree, All trees receiving urea had significantly higher fruit weight and fruit number per tree than the control trees. The specific time of urea application had no significant effect.

With respect to fruit size distribution, the irrigated treatment resulted in a significantly higher number of fruit of size 7.0-8.0 cm (box sizes 88-72). Generally, the non-irrigatd trees had more fruit of size 6.0 cm or less. No interaction between irrigation treatments and foliar urea sprays was observed.

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Two lines of tepary bean, PI 321-638 and PI 319-443, were salinized at age 7 days with Shive's nutrient solution plus 60 mM NaCl-CaCl2 in a 2:1 molar ratio. Salt was added at the rate of 1/3 the final concentration every other day. The osmotic potential of the salinizing solution was -0.33 MPa. Fifteen days of salt treatment reduced plant growth 45% and inhibited the incorporation of NaH14CO3 into the combined pool of arginine plus urea 60 and 85% for the two lines, respectively. The salt sensitive step in the arginine biosynthetic pathway was identified as carbamylphosphate synthetase in both lines, Incorporation of [14C]citrulline and [14C]carbamylphosphate plus ornithine were not inhibited by the salt treatment, but the incorporation of NaH14CO3 remained inhibited even in the presence of added ornithine (10 mM). Inhibition at carbamylphosphate synthetase was confirmed by demonstration that the incorporation of NaH14CO3 into UMP was also inhibited by salt stress. Evidence is provided suggesting that reduced availability of ornithine additionally compromised both arginine and pyrimidine biosynthesis during salt stress.

Supported by the Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of California, Riverside.

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The ability of arginine (50 mM), putrescine (10 and 20 mM), and spermidine (10 and 20 mM) to enhance low temperature stressed-induced flowering of 5-year-old container-grown `Washington' navel orange trees was evaluated. The metabolites were applied to the foliage at the end of the 4-week low-temperature treatment of 8-h days at 10°C and 16-h nights at 7°C; the trees were then moved to warmer conditions.

All treatments had a positive effect on floral intensity. Putrescine (20 mM) and spermidine (10 mM) significantly increased (P = 0.05) total flower number and both the number and proportion of leafless inflorescences per tree. However, the number of floral shoots per tree, as well as the number of leafy inflorescences and number of vegetative shoots were not significantly influenced by the metabolites.

The results suggest that polyamines are important to the development of flowers, but not leaves, along the axis of the inflorescence.

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Rough lemon seedlings [Citrus limon (L)] were hydroponically-cultured in complete Shive's nutrient solution (+K) or in Shive's nutrient solution with potassium omitted (-K) for a period of eight months. Fresh and dry weight of whole -K plants were reduced 4-fold (P<0.01). Nitrogen metabolism was monitored during this period in young, fully expanded leaves. Results showed that leaves of -K plants accumulated 2.5-fold more NH3-NH4 + than +K plants (P<0.01) and exhibited a concomitant increase in both activity of the de novo arginine biosynthetic pathway (2.5-fold) and free-arginine concentration (3.5-fold; P<0.001). Leaf proline content of -K plants increased 1.6-fold (P<0.05), while putrescine content increased 10-fold. Arginine decarboxylase activity was accelerated in -K plants.

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Tryptophan is known to be a precursor of IAA in plants. The amount of IAA available for the development of avocado fruit might be a limiting factor for its growth. It is well known that IAA is not transported into developing fruit along its strictly basipetal transport route. Therefore, IAA present in fruit must be synthesized in situ. We investigated the possibility that tryptophan or its metabolites are transported from leaf to fruit.

An HPLC method was developed to quantitatively isolate and measure tryptophan and all well known intermediates in the synthesis of IAA. Avocado leaves were fed L-[side chain-3-14C] tryptophan and its transport and metabolism to IAA within the leaf and within the fruit were monitored over time. Significant movement of tryptophan or a metabolite from leaf to fruit occurs in 24 h.

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