Reflective fabric was installed before bloom in 2009 and 2010 in alleyways of a mature, low-density ‘Anjou’ pear orchard (269 trees/ha). Four treatments were applied to study intracanopy light environments on fruit growth rate and size, cropload, yield, and fruit quality: 1) no fabric (NF); 2) partial-season fabric applied before full bloom (FB) and removed 75 days after full bloom (dafb) (PSF); 3) full-season fabric applied before FB and removed at harvest (FSF); and 4) shadecloth (60%) applied 60 dafb through harvest (SC). PSF and FSF improved yield by 12% and 18%, respectively, over the two-year period relative to NF. The high yields of fabric treatments were attributed to fruit number in the lower (less than 2.4 m) interior, mid-, and exterior zones of the canopy. Photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) was increased by fabric 28%, 95%, and 30% in the lower exterior, mid-, and interior canopy, respectively. Photosynthesis:light response curves indicated improved carbon assimilation of pear leaves developing in the elevated PAR environment of the lower canopy. Fruit growth rate and final size were unaffected by fabric treatments. FSF fruit size was similar to NF despite higher fruit density. Compared with NF, FSF had a small, non-significant effect on fruit maturity (increased softening) at harvest. Yield and fruit size of SC fruit were significantly reduced. The number of fruit in SC trees did not differ from NF in 2009, but the effect of shade reduced fruit number in 2010. Fabric did not affect fruit quality attributes after three and six months of regular atmosphere cold storage. Pears from SC trees did not attain ripening capacity after three months of cold storage and a 7-day ripening period and had lower sugar content compared with other treatments. The cumulative yield advantages associated with FSF support its use in mature pear orchards.
The effect of crop load level on vegetative growth, fruit growth, yield, fruit quality, surface pitting, crop value and return bloom was studied over a 2-year period on 9- and 10-year-old ‘Sweetheart’/‘Mazzard’ sweet cherry (Prunus avium) trees. In early spring, whole-tree crop loads were adjusted to two different levels by removal of reproductive buds (either 50% or all but one) from spurs and compared with an unthinned control. In 2009, heavy crop loads of unthinned trees reduced fruit size by 30 days after full bloom (DAFB). At harvest, fruit diameter of thinned treatments was increased 22% and 27% compared with unthinned fruit. Fruit quality attributes [soluble solids concentration (SS), fruit firmness, and total acids (TA)] were significantly greater for thinned treatments. Thinned treatment yields were reduced 40% to 54% relative to unthinned trees, with greater percentages of fruit in large size classes. Despite significantly fewer fruit per tree, moderately thinned trees had a higher estimated crop value ($142 per tree) than unthinned trees ($125 per tree). Crop value was lowest for the heavily thinned treatment ($107 per tree), reflecting overthinning. In 2010, shoot growth was negatively related to crop load level. Fruit growth of unthinned trees was not significantly affected by higher fruit density until 89 DAFB. Yield of 2010 unthinned trees was 87% of 2009, while thinned tree yields were similar between years. Improved fruit quality and greater percentages of large fruit were observed for thinned treatments in 2010; however, crop value was highest for unthinned trees ($190 per tree), even though 18% of the fruit were too small for fresh market sale. Surface pitting was unaffected by crop load level in either year. Return bloom (flowers per reproductive bud and reproductive buds per spur) was significantly, negatively related to the prior season's crop load in 2010 and 2011. In the current sweet cherry pricing structure, higher crop value is associated with large volumes of medium-sized fruit. Thinning to manage crop load of low-medium density, productive ‘Sweetheart’/‘Mazzard’ trees will not be an annual requirement, though in heavy fruit set years crop load management will improve crop value.