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  • Author or Editor: Jerome Hull Jr. x
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NAA is commonly used for fruit thinning of apples. However, with spur-type `Delicious' fruit, size may be less than expected based on the remaining crop load. Attempts to enhance fruit size on NAA-thinned trees with benzyladenine (BA) resulted in an interaction causing an increase in small (≤64 mm) fruit. CPPU [N-(2-chloro-4-pyridinyl)-N'-phenylurea], a highly active cytokinin in promoting parthenocarpy and growth of a number of fruit, was evaluated alone and with NAA for its effects on cropping and fruit growth in Redchief `Delicious'. High-volume sprays of CPPU were applied at 0, 2.5, 5, and 10 mg·L–1 to 13-year-old trees at 7.26 mm king fruit diameter. NAA was applied at 15 mg·L–1 with and without CPPU at 5 mg·L–1. Each treatment consisted of a single tree replicated four times. Response was evaluated by determining yield per tree and fruit size distribution at harvest. CPPU increased the amount of large (≥70 mm) fruit produced without significantly reducing yield. The amount of large fruit produced was 35, 71, 91 and 85 kg/tree for the nonthinned control (NTC) and CPPU at 2.5, 5, and 10 mg·L–1, respectively. NAA (15 mg·L–1) reduced yield by 39 kg/tree and increased amount of large fruit by 44 kg/tree. When CPPU (5 mg·L–1) was oversprayed with NAA (15 mg·L–1), yield was reduced by 30 kg/tree, and amount of large fruit was increased by 56 kg/tree compared to the NTC. The interaction was not significant for yield but was significant (P = 0.01) for amount of large fruit produced. Seed content was significantly reduced by NAA and CPPU, the effect being greater for NAA and in small (51 to 56 and 57 to 63 mm) than in large (76 to 82 mm) fruit. These data showing no significant inhibition of fruit growth with a combination of NAA and CPPU in Redchief `Delicious' are in contrast with findings for a related cytokinin, BA, where fruit growth was depressed significantly when combined with NAA.

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Benzyladenine (BA), reported to increase fruit growth in apples, was evaluated with NAA to overcome NAA-induced inhibition of fruit growth. High volume sprays of NAA (15 mg·liter-1), BA (25 to 100 mg·liter-1) and combinations were applied to Redchief `Delicious' (king fruit = 10 mm). Yield was not significantly reduced. The combinations (NAA + BA 25, 50 or 100 mg·liter-1) resulted in the highest percentage of small fruit (39% < 70 mm) and the lowest percentage of large fruit (35% > 77 mm) compared to NAA, BA and hand thinned control. There was no significant effect of NAA or BA on size of king fruit in absence of lateral fruit competition on a given spur, while the combinations decreased (P = 0.01) king fruit size. NAA, but not BA, reduced growth of lateral fruit, with or without competition. However, the combinations caused marked suppression of lateral fruit growth and reduced seed content. With `Empire', both NAA (10 mg·liter-1) and BA (25 to 150 mg·liter-1) effectively thinned. Fruit size was greater with BA than NAA. The combinations (NAA, 10 mg·liter-1 + BA, 25 or 50 mg·liter-1) over-thinned and did not increase the amount of small fruit as in `Delicious'.

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Post-bloom fruit thinning of spur-type `Delicious' with NAA may occasionally result in excessive small fruit (50 - 67 mm) not correlated with crop load. We evaluated the effect of carrier volume and time of application on incidence of small fruit over three growing seasons. A constant dose of NAA (30 g·ha-1) was applied in 230 to 2100 liter·ha-1 at about 10 mm king fruit diameter (KFD). Amount of NAA-induced small fruit differed from year to year, but there was no significant effect of carrier volume in any given year. NAA (15 mg·liter-1) was applied as a dilute spray at 5 to 22 mm KFD. Time of application influenced fruit size distribution at harvest in only one of three years. The incidence of small fruit appeared more closely related to temperature during spray application than to carrier volume or time of application. The effect of NAA on growth rate of king fruit with minimal competition (branches hand thinned, no lateral fruit) was determined over the first month after thinning. There was no pronounced effect of NAA on post-treatment growth rate. In a related study, NAA caused a significant decrease in fruit size when two or more fruit were competing on the same spur, while fruit size in the absence of intra-spur competition was not significantly reduced.

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Generally, NAA is effective in inducing fruit thinning in `Delicious'. Although significant thinning may be induced, fruit size at harvest may not be closely related to crop load. Further, the magnitude of response to NAA may vary markedly between seasons. Herein, we present an analysis of response of `Redchief Delicious' over several years (tree age 11–14 years old) to high-volume sprays of NAA (15 mg·L–1), BA (25-50 mg·L–1), and CPPU (5 mg·L–1) at KFD of 8–12 mm. A single tree was used for each treatment replicated four to six times and response was measured by yield and fruit size distribution for each tree. In eight experiments over 4 years, NAA resulted in an average 22% reduction in yield, a 5.1% reduction in large fruit (70 mm+) and 2% reduction in small (<64 mm) fruit compared to NTC. There was a marked variation in response among years. Over 4 years, BA averaged a 5% decrease in yield, a 15% increase in large fruit and a 21% decrease in small fruit. In contrast, when NAA was combined with BA at 25-50 mg·L–1, yield decreased an average of 30%, large fruit decreased by 68%, and small fruit increased 8-fold (2.54 vs 20.6 kg/tree). CPPU alone (2-year study) had no significant effect on yield, but increased large fruit by 60% and significantly reduced production of small fruit. When CPPU was combined with NAA, yield was reduced in both years and the amount of large fruit was increased in 1995, but decreased in 1996. NAA had a very inhibitory effect on fruit size in 1996. One explanation may be that the crop was produced by lateral fruit (king flowers were lost to frost), and NAA has a greater inhibitory effect on lateral than king fruit. Results will be discussed in relation to studies with `Jonathan' and `Empire'.

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NAA is commonly used for post-bloom apple thinning. However, occasionally with `Delicious', excessive small fruit (50 - 67 mm) may be produced, regardless of crop load. This effect has been associated with late and/or low volume applications, however the cause is not known. A preliminary study (1991; fruit diam., 11 mm; 15 mg·L-1 equivalent at 234 - 2104 L·ha-1) resulted in a high incidence (19 - 40 %) of small fruit. A later application (fruit diam., 20 mm, 701 L·ha-1) had a lower incidence and fruit size approached that of hand thinned controls. In 1992, NAA (15 mg·L-1,equiv.) was applied (fruit diam., 8 mm) at 250 - 2000 L·ha-1. Time of application was assessed by applying NAA (15 mg·L-1, high vol.) at 5 - 21 mm fruit diameter. At harvest, there was no significant amount of small fruit in any treatment. Fruit from NAA treatments were smaller than hand-thinned, but larger than non-thinned controls. Fruit size distribution showed no significant effect of spray volume or time of application. In a related study, a higher concentration (17 mg·L-1) of NAA induced small fruit. The possible involvement of seasonal/environmental factors will be discussed.

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