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  • Author or Editor: Leon D. Combs x
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Although demand for organic produce continues to increase in the mid-Atlantic, few apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) growers in the region have adopted organic management practices due to the considerable disease, insect, and weed pressure, as well as the lack of effective crop load management tools. In this study, lime sulfur (LS) and Regalia® (R) were applied in different sequences (i.e., LS/LS, LS/R, R/R, and R/LS), each in a mixture with JMS Stylet-Oil, to chemically thin apple flowers in an organically managed ‘Honeycrisp’/‘MM.111’ orchard. There was also a nontreated control, a “grower standard” control (LS at 11 mm fruitlet diameter), and a hand-thinned control. The treatments were evaluated for their ability to reduce crop load, as well as to control powdery mildew [Podosphaera leucotricha (Ellis & Everh.) E. S. Salmon], cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginiana Schwein.), and quince rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes Cooke & Peck). All treatments reduced crop load compared with the nontreated control, and after the first application of LS or R, the number of fertilized king blooms was reduced and fertilization was prevented in all side blooms. All bloom thinning treatments had more fruit peel russet than the control and russet was more severe when LS was one of the applications. Bloom thinning applications of LS and R did not reduce powdery mildew leaf infection compared with the nontreated control. Cedar apple rust incidence was reduced by all bloom thinning treatments, though some lesions were detected in all treatments. There were minimal quince rust infections in any of the treatments, including the nontreated control. These results suggest that when LS and/or Regalia® are mixed with JMS Stylet-Oil and applied as bloom thinners, they can reduce crop load, and, as a secondary benefit, they can also decrease cedar apple rust incidence from infections that occur during bloom.

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Reducing apple crop load during bloom can increase fruit size and promote annual bearing when compared with crop reduction at later timings. In this study, we compared the efficacy of chemical blossom-thinning strategies on ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Gala’ apple trees. Several blossom-thinning treatments were evaluated, including 1) unthinned control (control), 2) hand-thinned (HT) at bloom, 3) liquid lime sulfur + Stylet-Oil (LS + SO), 4) ammonium thiosulfate (ATS), 5) endothall (ET), and 6) naphthaleneacetamide (NAD). Chemical treatments were applied twice during bloom, using a predictive model to determine application timings. Blossom thinner effects on pollen tube growth, fruit set, and yield responses were evaluated. LS + SO and ATS reduced the number of pollen tubes that entered the style for ‘Golden Delicious’ by 75% and 63%, respectively. ET and NAD did not affect the number of pollen tubes that entered the style. In one of 2 years, LS + SO resulted in a near-ideal crop load and increased fruit weight. ATS was effective in reducing initial fruit set in ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Gala’, but did not reduce whole-tree crop density. ET reduced crop load in all experiments but caused excessive spur leaf injury and negatively affected fruit size of ‘Gala’ but not ‘Golden Delicious’. NAD had limited efficacy on ‘Golden Delicious’ at the concentrations and application timings used in this trial. When used as the sole method of crop load management, none of the chemistries evaluated over-thinned or increased fruit injury. However, ET caused excessive thinning when evaluated as part of a commercial crop load management program on ‘Gala’. Of the products evaluated, LS + SO provided the best overall thinning response.

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