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  • Author or Editor: Habib Khemira x
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Fruit tree responses to foliar urea sprays are variable. We hypothesized that such variability is a function of leaf age-related changes in urea-N mobility after urea is absorbed. Two experiments were conducted to study the distribution of urea-derived N in shoots and branches of apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees. Urea labeled with 15N was applied to young expanding leaves in spring and to senescing spur leaves in fall. At the low concentrations used [0.5%, 1%, and 2% (w/v)], very little spring-applied 15N was found in tissues other than the treated leaf. Fall-applied urea-15N, however, was detected in high concentrations in dormant buds and bark of the spurs to which the treated leaves were attached. Almost no N was exported to neighboring tissues. The following spring, there was some redistribution of labeled N to adjacent buds. Foliar urea sprays applied immediately after harvest contributed most to bud N; less urea-N was exported to the buds following later fall applications.

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Mature hedgerows of `Anjou' pear (Pyrus communis L.) trees, planted north(N)-south (S) or east (E)-west (W), were used to study the effect of hedgerow orientation on fruiting and canopy exposure. In 1990, flower bud density tended to be lower on the E-W rows, especially on their N sides. Fruit set (FS) was highest on the S side of E-W rows and lowest on the N side, while the E and W sides of the N-S rows were intermediate. Crop density (CD) had a similar pattern as FS, with more fruit on the S than on the N side of the E-W rows. CD was more evenly distributed between the sides on the N-S hedgerows. Differences in FS and CD between sides were related to different levels of sunlight interception. Light exposure was lowest on the N sides of the E-W rows and highest on the S sides throughout the growing season and especially toward the equinoxes. Increased exposure to the sun on the S and W sides late in the season led to more fruit with solar injury. Fruit from E–W rows were larger and less firm. Accumulated yields over 11 years showed a 21.4% increase in the N-S rows over those of the E-W rows.

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Current N fertilization practices, where high spring applications are utilized, may lead to excessive vegetative growth. However, high rates may not be required to maximize fruit yield and quality. Therefore, alternative strategies to minimize shoot growth while still providing the N needs of the tree were investigated. Mature `Comice' and `Bosc' pear trees were given one of the following treatments: a spring soil (SS) application of NH4NO3 nitrate at 112.5 kg/ha rate, a similar application in the fall after harvest (FS), a fall foliar (FF) spray of a 7.5% urea solution after harvest (FF), or no N (Control). Trees that received a FF application had the same leaf and fruit N content as control trees, but they yielded more fruit The SS application gave more vigorous trees than FF application. Yield, however, was not different.

A 15N enriched urea solution was applied at harvest as either a foliar spray, soil application, or combination of both treatments to mature `Comice' trees. Flower buds from trees that previously received a foliar treatment had 37% of their N derived from the foliar N application. No labeled N was detected in buds from the soil treatment These results indicate that vegetative and reproductive N requirements of fruit trees may be managed separately.

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Young bearing spur (Red-Spur Delicious) and standard (Top-Red Delicious) type apple trees were given one of the following treatments: 120g N applied to the ground in spring (SG), 120g N applied to the ground one month before harvest (PG), 60g N sprayed on the foliage after harvest (FF), 60g N SG and 60g N PG, or 60g N SG and 60g N FE Urea and NH4NO3 depleted in 15N (0.01 atom percentage 15N) were used for foliar and ground applications, respectively. Very little labeled N was present in leaves and fruit with PG applications, but roots, bark, and buds contained substantial amounts of it. Nitrogen from the FF sprays was effectively translocated to buds and bark. Percentage of N from the fertilizer in Sept leaves from spur-type trees that had only 60 g of N in spring was 56% higher than that found in standard-type trees. This figure rose to 180% with 120 g N spring application. Mature fruit showed the same trend. Spur-type trees appeared more responsive to N management practices. In contrast to the above ground structure, small roots of standard-type trees showed more label than those of spur-type trees. The difference was bigger with SG applications. Partitioning of N in the roots was apparently affected by the scion.

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Management of pear (Pyrus communis L.) trees for low N and high Ca content in the fruit reduced the severity of postharvest fungal decay. Application of N fertilizer 3 weeks before harvest supplied N for tree reserves and for flowers the following spring without increasing fruit N. Calcium chloride sprays during the growing season increased fruit Ca content. Nitrogen and Ca management appear to be additive factors in decay reduction. Fruit density and position in the tree canopy influenced their response to N fertilization. Nitrogen: Ca ratios were lower in fruit from the east quadrant and bottom third of trees and from the distal portion of branches. High fruit density was associated with low N: Ca ratios. Nutritional manipulations appear to be compatible with other methods of postharvest decay control.

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