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Denise Neilsen, Eugene J. Hogue, Gerald H. Neilsen, and Peter Parchomchuk

Four apple (Malus domestica Borkh) cultivars (`Fuji', `Spartan', `Fiesta', and `Gala') on Malling 9 (M.9) rootstock were grown in the field with three N rates (5, 20, and 35 g N/tree per year), supplied as Ca(NO3)2, and fertigated daily for 9 weeks. In the second year, leaf SPAD readings (chlorophyll readings obtained with the Minolta-502 SPAD meter) increased over the growing season for all cultivars, and leaf N decreased. Leaf SPAD and leaf N measurements increased in response to N fertigation rate at all sampling times. `Gala' consistently had lower SPAD readings than the other cultivars, and, with the exception of the first sampling time, `Fuji' had higher and `Fiesta' lower leaf N concentrations than other cultivars. There were strong relationships between leaf N concentration and SPAD readings for all cultivars until mid-July (r 2 = 0.44 to 0.89), but not later in the growing season. Differences in SPAD readings and leaf N concentration due to cultivar and over time were as great as those due to N treatments, indicating that in the future, determination of critical SPAD values for apple leaves must be standardized for cultivar and sampling time. SPAD readings could be used to assess the need for N early in the growing season in fertigated orchards where rapid changes in nutrition programs can be undertaken readily.

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Denise Neilsen, Peter Millard, Gerald H. Neilsen, and Eugene J. Hogue

Uptake, recycling, and partitioning of N in relation to N supply and dry matter partitioning was determined for 3- and 4-year-old `Elstar' apple trees [(Malus sylvestris (L) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] on Malling 9 rootstock in 1994 (year 3) and 1995 (year 4), respectively. Trees received N yearly as Ca(NO3)2 at 20 g/tree applied on a daily basis through a drip irrigation system. The fertilizer was labelled with 15N in year 3 to allow quantification of remobilization and uptake. The trees were not allowed to crop in years 1 and 2 and were not thinned in years 3 and 4, thereby establishing a range of crop loads. Dry matter and N contents were measured in fruit, midseason and senescent leaves and prunings collected in year 3, in midseason leaves, and in components of the whole trees, harvested in fall of year 4. Labelled N withdrawn from leaves in year 3 was less than that remobilized into leaves and fruit in year 4, indicating that senescent leaves were not the only source of remobilized N. Nitrogen uptake efficiency (total N uptake/N applied) in year 3 was low (22.3%). Of the N taken up, ≈50% was removed at the end of the growing season in fruit and leaves. In fall of year 4, the trees contained about 20 g N of which 50% was partitioned into leaves and fruit, indicating that the annual N uptake by young dwarf apple trees is low (≈10 g/tree). Data were pooled to compare dry matter and N partitioning into two major sinks: fruit and shoot leaves. Total fruit dry weight increased, and in year 4, fruit size decreased with fruit number, indicating that growth was carbon (C) limited at high crop loads. The number of shoot leaves initiated in both years was unaffected by fruit number, but leaf size decreased as fruit number increased in year 4. In year 3, the amount of both remobilized and root-supplied N in fruit increased with fruit number, but the N content of the shoot leaf canopy was unaffected. In general, N and C partitioning were coupled and leaf N concentrations were high (2.8% to 3.2%), suggesting that the low uptake efficiency of fertilizer N resulted because the availability of N in the root zone greatly exceeded demand.

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Brian P. Pellerin, Deborah Buszard, David Iron, Charles G. Embree, Richard P. Marini, Douglas S. Nichols, Gerald H. Neilsen, and Denise Neilsen

Tree fruit growers use chemical and mechanical thinning techniques in an attempt to maintain regular annual flower production and maximum repeatable yields of varieties susceptible to biennial bearing. If the percentage of floral buds an apple tree could produce without causing yield depression in subsequent years was known, it would be possible to better manage crop-thinning regimes. This study proposes that thinning is a partial transfer of potential flower buds from one year to the next year and estimates the maximum repeatable sequence of flower buds without biennial bearing. The conceptual framework is tested on a 50-year simulation with 0% to 100% transfer of thinned flower buds. Results indicate that the maximum repeatable sequence of flower buds rises sharply when the final years of the orchard approach and declines when the percent transfer of thinned buds is near 0%.