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Kuo-Tan Li and Jim Syvertsen

Young citrus trees and seedlings in Florida's commercial nurseries are often grown under shade cloth netting to avoid high light and temperature. To investigate the potential benefit of altering radiation by colored shade nets, `Cleopatra' mandarin (Cleo, C. reticulata Blanco) seedlings and potted `Valencia' trees [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] on Cleo or Carrizo [Carr, C. sinensis × Poncirus trifoliate (L.) Raf.] rootstocks were grown in full sun or under 50% shade from blue, black, silver, grey, and red colored shade nets. Changes in photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and temperatures under the shade were monitored. Leaf function and leaf chlorophyll contents were measured, and plants were harvested by the end of the experiment for shoot and root growth measurements. Plants under the shade received an average of 45% PAR and had lower mid-day leaf temperature than plants in full sun. Plants under blue nets had greatest leaf chlorophyll a, b, and total chlorophyll content, whereas those under red nets had the lowest. However, shading improved photosystem II efficiency from measurements of leaf chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm) regardless of the color of shade nets. Shading increased shoot growth, shoot to root ratio, and total plant dry weight of Cleo seedlings, especially those under silver nets.

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Kuo-Tan Li and Alan N. Lakso

Summer pruning is primarily used in apples to increase the light penetration into inner canopy to improve fruit color. However, summer pruning may reduce fruit size. We hypothesize that removing healthy exterior shoots reduces the whole-tree carbon supply in relation to pruning severity. If the crop load (i.e., demand) is high, fruit size and quality will be reduced. The effects of summer pruning on photosynthetic activity and recovery of shaded leaves after re-exposure were monitored on a range of exposures in canopies of `Empire' apple trees. The photosynthetic ability of leaves was positively related to its prepruning exposure. There was little recovery of photosynthetic activity of shade leaves until late growing season, indicating the re-exposure of shade leaves after summer pruning cannot replace the role of exterior leaves removed by pruning. Whole canopy net CO2 exchange (NCER) was measured on `Empire'/M9 trees with a commercial range of pruning severity. Reductions in NCER were approximately proportional to pruning severity and % leaf area removed and were as great as 60% in the most severe pruning. Canopy light interception decreased slightly. The effects on canopy NCER thus appeared to be primarily related to reduced photosynthetic efficiency and secondarily to reduced light interception.

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Kuo-Tan Li, Jim Syvertsen, and Jill Dunlop

Effects of crop load on leaf characteristics, shoot growth, fruit shape, fruit quality, and return bloom were investigated in 13-year-old `Ruby Red' grapefruit (Citrus paradisi Macf.) on `Swingle' citrumleo rootstock. Trees were hand thinned in June 2003 and 2004 at the end of physiological fruit drop to establish three to four levels of crop load ranging from normal (high crop load without thinning) to extremely low (near 90% fruit removal). Leaves on high crop load trees had higher net assimilation of CO2 (ACO2) than those on low crop load trees. Crop load enhancement of ACO2 continued until harvest. In 2004, however, the effects were diminished in October just prior to the beginning of the harvest season, after leaf and fruit loss from three consecutive hurricanes. There was no difference in leaf dry weight per leaf area and leaf nitrogen among treatments. Nonfruiting branches of high crop load trees produced fewer, but longer, summer flushes than those of low crop load trees. Fruiting branches generally produced few summer flushes with similar shoot lengths among treatments. High crop load trees developed a greater percentage of vegetative shoots, whereas low crop load trees developed more inflorescences. Crop load adjustments did not affect fruit size and total soluble solid content, but low crop load trees produced a higher percentage of irregular shape (sheepnosed) fruit with high acidity.

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Kuo-Tan Li, Jim Syvertsen, and Jacqueline Burns

The shedding of leaves, branches, flowers, and young fruit; scuffing of bark; and exposed roots that are caused by trunk or canopy shakers during harvest appears to be unavoidable, but generally does not reduce long-term yields. Nonetheless, such visible injuries have limited the widespread adoption of mechanical harvesting in Florida's citrus industry. We determined if such physical injuries caused by a properly operated trunk shaker resulted in any physiological injures or any consequent decline in vigor and productivity of well-managed, healthy citrus trees. We continuously monitored various physiological indexes in mature `Hamlin' and `Valencia' orange trees annually harvested by hand or by a linear-type trunk shaker with various shaking durations. Trunk shaking did not reduce return bloom, fruit set, young fruit growth, or canopy and root growth. There was a correlation between the seasonal timing of a simulated bark injury and recovery from the injury. Although some root exposure was frequently observed during trunk shaking, leaf water relations and fine root growth were unaffected. There was no difference in leaf dry weight per area and leaf nitrogen among treatments. Mechanical and hand harvesting in late season `Valencia' during full bloom removed similar amounts of flowers. However, immature fruit were removed by trunk shaking when `Valencia' were harvested after mid-May, and the number of young fruit removal increased with shaking duration and fruit size. The loss of young fruit for the next crop remains a major problem of mechanical harvesting in late harvest `Valencia'.

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Kuo-Tan Li, Jim Syvertsen, and Jackie Burns

Mechanical harvesting using trunk shakers on late-season `Valencia' sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.] trees can remove young fruit for the next crop and occasionally cause root exposure or severe bark scuffing on the trunk. To evaluate the effects of these physical injuries on fine root growth and lifespan, we installed minirhizotrons in the root zone of 15-year-old fruiting `Valencia' trees on Swingle citrumelo [C. paradise Macf. × Poncirus trifoliate (L.) Raf.] rootstocks. Images of roots against the minirhizotron tubes were captured biweekly with a custom-made video-DVD recorder system. Trees were harvested in early June by hand or with a linear-type trunk shaker in two consecutive years. Bark injury after trunk shaking was mimicked by removing part (42%) of the bark tissue from the main trunk with a sharp knife. Numbers of fine roots, root activity and lifespan as indexed by the color of the root, and the distribution of new fine roots after harvest were analyzed. Although root exposure was common with the normal operations during mechanical harvesting, few disturbances reached the major fine root zone. There was no clear correlation between root growth and trunk shaking with or without bark injury. The root system might benefit from less competition after the loss of young fruit from mechanical harvesting, as a greater availability of carbohydrates or other resources may compensate for any potential damage due to mechanical harvesting.

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Kuo-Tan Li* and James P. Syvertsen

Mechanical harvesting of citrus trees by trunk or canopy shakers can cause leaf and twig removal, bark injury and root exposure. Such problems have restricted the adoption of mechanical harvesting in Florida citrus. We assessed physiological responses of citrus trees that were mechanically harvested with a linear-type trunk shaker, operating at 4 Hz, 70.8 kg mass weight, and 6.5 cm displacement, for 10 or 20 seconds. We measured fruit recovery efficiency, leaf and shoot removal, mid-day stem water potential, leaf gas exchange, and leaf fluorescence emission of mature `Hamlin' and `Valencia' orange trees under restricted or normal irrigation. Shaking treatments effectively removed 90% to 94% of fruit without bark damage. Compared to harvesting by hand, trunk shaking removed 10% more leaf area and twigs, and caused some visible exposure of fibrous roots at the soil surface. There were no significant treatment differences on mid-day stem water potential, leaf gas exchange, and leaf photosystem efficiency. Excessively shaken trees for 20-30 seconds can temporary induce stress symptoms resembling that in trees without irrigation. Trees may have benefited from the low levels of leaf and twig loss after trunk shaking that compensated for any root loss. Long-term effects of trunk shaking will be assessed by tree growth, return bloom, subsequent yield, and carbohydrate reserves.

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Kuo-Tan Li and Alan N. Lakso

Summer pruning increases canopy light penetration and re-exposes spur leaves of the interior canopy of apple trees (Malus ×domestica Borkh.). However, we hypothesized that leaf photosynthetic ability is determined by the pre-pruning light environment, and the re-exposure intensity after summer pruning is incapable of restoring the photosynthesis efficiency of shaded leaves. To test this hypothesis, a commercial-type thinning-cuts pruning was applied to mature central leader `Empire'/M.26 apple trees. Changes in light availability, leaf net photosynthesis (Pn), photosystem II efficiency, and specific leaf weight (SLW) were recorded periodically before and after pruning. Leaf photosynthesis declined slightly through the growing season and was well correlated with pre-pruning light availability until late September. Although Pn decreased more substantially late in the season on exterior leaves than on interior leaves, Pn of leaves in the inner and middle canopies was lower than exterior leaves until late October. Maximum efficiency of photosystem II of dark-adapted leaves, measured by chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm), was not related to prior exposure or re-exposure. Specific leaf weight was well correlated with pre-pruning light availability and with leaf Pn in August but not in October. Results suggested that commercial summer pruning significantly increases light environments in the inner and middle canopies. However, light availability at interior and middle canopy sites was still much lower than exterior canopy and, consequently, leaf photosynthetic ability did not increase after summer pruning.

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Kuo-Tan Li and James P. Syvertsen

Mechanical harvesting of citrus trees can cause physical injuries, such as shedding of leaves, exposing roots, and scuffing bark. Although mechanical harvesting usually has not reduced yield, physiological consequences to the tree from these visible injuries have not been investigated. We hypothesized that physical injuries to tree canopies and root systems from a properly operated trunk shaker would not cause short-term physiological effects. Tree water status and leaf gas exchange of mature `Hamlin' and `Valencia' sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.] trees that were harvested by a trunk shaker were compared to hand-harvested trees. A trunk shaker was operated with adequate duration to remove >90% of mature fruit or with excessive shaking time under various environmental conditions and drought stress treatments throughout the harvest season. Mid-day stem (Ψstem) and leaf (Ψleaf) water potentials along with leaf gas exchange were measured before and after harvest. Trees harvested by the trunk shaker did not develop altered water status under most conditions. Trees harvested with excessive shaking time and/or with limited soil water supply developed low Ψstem resembling Ψstem of drought-stressed trees. However, water potential of all treatments recovered to values of the well-irrigated, hand-harvested trees after rainfall. In addition, mechanical harvesting did not reduce CO2 assimilation, transpiration, stomatal conductance, water use efficiency, or photosystem II efficiency as measured by chlorophyll fluorescence. Thus, despite visible injuries, a properly operated trunk shaker did not result in any measurable physiological stress.

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Kuo-Tan Li, Jackie Burns, Luis Pozo, and Jim Syvertsen

To determine the effects of abscission compounds 5-chloro-3-methyl-4-nitro-1H-pyrazole (CMNP) and ethephon on citrus leaf function and water relations, we applied CMNP at 0, 200, 500, 1000, or 2000 ppm, or ethephon at 400 or 800 ppm, to canopies of fruiting potted and field citrus trees during the harvest season. Both compounds induced fruit and leaf drop after 3 days of application, especially at high concentrations. Low concentrations of CMNP (0, 200, or 500 ppm) or either ethephon treatments did not affect leaf photosystem II efficiency, as indicated by leaf chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm). High concentrations of CMNP (1000 or 2000 ppm) immediately reduced photosystem II efficiency in leaves and fruit peel. However, Fv/Fm of leaves remaining on the trees was gradually restored and close to the level of control after 4 days of treatment. Both compounds had little effect on chlorophyll content, ratio of chlorophyll a to chlorophyll b, leaf water content, and mid-day leaf water potential. The results suggest that CMNP at recommended concentrations (200 to 500 ppm) effectively reduced fruit attachment force with little herbicidal effect on leaves.

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Kuo-Tan Li, Jacqueline K. Burns, and James P. Syvertsen

The use of abscission compounds to loosen fruit from stems can be accompanied with various levels of phytotoxicity. To determine the effects of a promising abscission compound, 5-chloro-3-methyl-4-nitro-1H-pyrazole (CMNP), and ethephon on sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] leaf function, water relations, and young fruit growth, we sprayed CMNP at 0, 200, 500, 1000, or 2000 mg·L−1 or ethephon at 400 or 800 mg·L−1 to fruiting branches of potted and field-grown sweet orange during the 2005–06 harvest season. Both compounds induced abscission of mature fruit and leaves 3 days after application but had little effect on leaf chlorophyll content, water content, and midday leaf water potential (Ψleaf) of remaining leaves. CMNP sprayed at 200 mg·L−1 or either concentration of ethephon did not affect leaf photosystem II efficiency, as indicated by leaf chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm). High CMNP concentrations (1000 or 2000 mg·L−1) reduced Fv/Fm 1 day after treatment, but Fv/Fm of leaves remaining on sprayed branches gradually recovered to the level of control leaves by 4 days after treatment. Similarly, high concentrations of CMNP and ethephon temporarily reduced net gas exchange of leaves for about 4 days. Young fruit growth also was temporarily inhibited by CMNP concentrations greater than 200 mg·L−1. We conclude that CMNP sprayed at recommended concentrations (200–500 mg·L−1) caused mature fruit abscission with little long-term phytotoxic effect on leaves or young fruit.