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Thomas M. Kon, Melanie A. Schupp, Hans E. Winzeler and James R. Schupp

The use of short-duration applications of thermal energy (thermal shock; TS) as an apple blossom thinning strategy was investigated. Effects of TS temperature and timing on stigmatic receptivity, pollen tube growth in vivo, and visible leaf injury were evaluated in multiple experiments on ‘Crimson Gala’. TS treatments were applied to blossoms and spur leaves using a variable temperature heat gun. TS temperatures ≥86 °C had a strong inhibitory effect on pollen tube growth on the stigmatic surface and in the style. TS temperatures >79 °C reduced average pollen tube length to less than the average style length. Timing of TS treatment (0 or 24 hours after pollination) was not an influential factor, indicating that effective TS temperatures reduced pollen tube growth up to 24 hours after the pollination event. The onset of thermal injury to vegetative tissues occurred at similar TS temperatures that inhibited pollen tube growth in vivo. Excessive leaf injury (>33%) was observed at 95 °C, suggesting relatively narrow differences in thermal sensitivity between reproductive and vegetative tissues. Inconsistent TS temperatures and/or responses were observed in some experiments. Ambient air temperature may have influenced heat gun output temperatures and/or plant susceptibility. While results suggest some promise, additional work is required to validate and further develop this concept.

Open access

Thomas M. Kon, Melanie A. Schupp, Hans E. Winzeler and James R. Schupp

Blossom thinning can confer significant benefits to apple growers, including increased fruit size and annual bearing. However, current blossom thinning practices can damage spur leaves and/or fruit. We evaluated the use of short duration forced heated air treatments [thermal shock (TS)] as a blossom thinning strategy for ‘York Imperial’. Using a variable-temperature heat gun, TS treatments were applied to solitary blossoms 24 hours after pollination. Effects of output temperature (five levels) and treatment duration (four levels) were evaluated using a completely randomized design with a factorial treatment structure. Short duration treatments (0.5 and 1.0 seconds) were ineffective for arresting pollen tube growth in vivo. TS temperature required to inhibit stylar pollen tube growth was inconsistent across years. In 2014, TS temperatures ≥56 °C inhibited pollen tubes from reaching the style base at 2.0 and 4.0 second durations. However, in 2015, TS temperatures ≥81 °C at 4.0 seconds prevented pollen tubes from reaching the style base. Inconsistent effects of TS across years were attributed to treatments being applied too late due to optimal conditions for pollen tube growth during the intervening 24-hour period after pollination. Excessive injury to spur leaf tissue was observed at temperatures higher than 84 °C and 70 °C (2.0 and 4.0 seconds, respectively). Pollen tube growth was reduced or arrested at temperature and duration combinations that caused minimal visible injury to spur leaves. Identifying and exploiting structural differences between apple blossoms and vegetative spur leaves may provide insight for the future development of TS or other attempts at developing selective thinning technologies.