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Holly A. Johnson*, Steven A. Weinbaum, and Theodore M. DeJong

The effects of low and high crop loads in 2002 on floral development (Summer 2002), pistil size at anthesis (Spring 2003), and subsequent season fruit size at maturity (Summer 2003) were studied. Trees were all thinned to the same crop load in 2003. Three peach cultivars (Elegant Lady, O'Henry and Fairtime) with different ripening times (mid-July, mid-August, and early-September, respectively) were used to assess the effects of current season crop on floral development for the subsequent season. Based on previous literature, we reasoned that the maximum competition for carbohydrates between maturing fruit and developing buds is likely to occur at fruit maturity, especially under heavy crop loads. In 2003, individual fruit were harvested and weighed at maturity. In all three cultivars, a heavy crop load reduced the percentage of floral buds initiated and delayed floral differentiation. A heavy crop load also reduced pistil size at anthesis and fruit size at maturity in the subsequent season. These data support the practice of vigorous pruning to annually renew fruiting wood in peach to minimize the influence of crop in the previous season on the subsequent season's fruit and maintain large fruit sizes.