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  • Author or Editor: Kendall C. Elliott x
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Three growth suppression treatments were compared during 1991 to 1993 on `Stayman' apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) trees grown in the T-trellis and the MIA trellis systems. All treatments—root pruning, K-31 fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), and K-31 fescue plus root pruning—suppressed tree growth compared to the nontreated control, but results were inconsistent between years and systems. Sod or sod plus root pruning reduced terminal shoot length in both systems in 2 out of 3 years. Root pruning decreased shoot length in the T-trellis in 1992. Sod decreased trunk cross-sectional area in the T-trellis in 1993. Treatments did not affect 3-year average yield efficiency but did appear to increase biennial bearing. Sod, with or without root pruning, decreased fruit cracking in the T-trellis 69% and 42%, respectively, in 1992, and sod plus root pruning decreased cracking in the MIA trellis 50%. Sod reduced fruit diameter in the T-trellis in 1992. Secondary effects of growth suppression treatments included increased light penetration and improved fruit color. Sod decreased leaf N and Mg and increased leaf P, K, and Cu. The Oct. 1993 stem water potential gradient from root to canopy was more negative in the sod plus root pruning treatment, and the osmotic potential of rootsucker leaves in the combination treatment was greater than in the control, indicating that sod plus root pruning alters the distribution of water within a fruit tree.

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Studies were conducted on peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] during 1988 to 1990 to test the performance of a tree-width rope-curtain bloom thinner and a rotating rope-curtain thinner. Six trips over the tree canopy were required with the tree-width rope curtain, and only one trip was required with the rotating curtain to thin to a spacing of about one flower per 9 cm of fruiting shoot length. Based on the number of flowers per square centimeter of branch cross-sectional area (CSA) immediately following thinning and the number of fruit per square centimeter of CSA following June drop, rope-curtain thinning was equal to hand-thinning at full bloom (FB). Rope-curtain thinning reduced hand-thinning time by 40% and increased harvest fruit weight by 10% to 20%. Research on various modifications in tree training/pruning indicated that performance of the mechanical thinner was negatively correlated with shoot density. Thinning was maximum on open-center-trained trees on which detailed pruning had been conducted to eliminate overlapping shoots.

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A mechanical bloom-thinning technique, using suspended flexible strands of rubber belting or rope moved through trees on a frame mounted on a forklift, was tested on ‘Early Loring’ peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch]. Heaviest thinning occurred in the upper two-thirds of the tree canopy. Shoot orientation and flower position did not affect bloom removal. Maximum bloom removal occurred at full bloom when the thinning machine passed through a tree at least four times. Operating at an increased tractor speed increased thinning. The most effective treatments removed 45% to 59% of the blossoms, reduced number of fruit from 18 to around 10/cm2 limb cross-sectional area (CSA) and reduced hand thinning time by 30%.

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