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K.G. Weis, S.M. Southwick and Michael E. Rupert

Lack of pollen dispersal was noted in various sites and cultivars of sweet cherry (Prunus avium) following one of California's warmest recorded winters (≈550 hours @ 7°C in the Central Valley). `Bing' cherry is thought to require 850 to 880 hours for adequate budbreak and bloom development. Cross pollination is required by most sweet cherry cultivars for fruit set, including `Bing'. Complete anther dehiscence averaged 13% in `Bing' trees sampled, compared to 52% in `Rainier', 65% in `Brooks', 84.5% in `Burlat', 33% in Van, 23% in `Larian', and 86% in `Black Tartarian'. A range of degree of dehiscence from none to half-open was widely apparent, again by cultivar. Many partially dehiscent anthers did not shed pollen normally but appeared to have the mass of pollen completely adherent inside the pollen sacs. `Black Tartarian', `Larian', and `Burlat' shed pollen readily, however, pollen from dehiscent anthers of other cultivars generally appeared to stick together on the everted locule walls and required direct manipulation to be withdrawn from the pollen sac. Anther morphology ranged from normal size to half normal size, anthers appearing to be without pollen altogether that shriveled on drying, and lobes that were aborted. Pollen germination was low overall: 19% `Bing', 18% `Rainier', 20% `Brooks', 57% `Burlat', 14% `Van', 48% `Larian', and 48% `Black Tartarian'. Poor fruit set in low chill years is often attributed to lack of bloom overlap with pollenizers, however, inadequate chilling also may contribute to low fruit set by inhibiting anther and pollen growth and development. The implications of a critical chilling requirement for normal floral differentiation are that in cherry-growing areas where low chill years are common, pollen may not be viable or transferrable from pollenizers and female gametophytic development also may be impaired.

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K.G. Weis, S.M. Southwick, J.T. Yeager, W.W. Coates and Michael E. Rupert

The years 1995 and 1996 were low chill years in California with respect to stone fruit dormancy. Advancing reproductive budbreak and flowering was accomplished in `Bing' cherry (Prunus avium) by single-spray treatments of a surfactant {a polymeric alkoxylated fatty amine [N,N-bis 2-(omega-hydroxypolyoxyethylene/polyoxypropylene) ethyl alkylamine]} and potassium nitrate in combination when applied at “tightbud,” ≈ 42 days (1 Feb. 1995) before full bloom and with surfactant and potassium nitrate in combination when 10% green calyx was apparent, 33 days before full bloom. Applying 2% surfactant (v/v) + 6% potassium nitrate (w/v) was most effective in advancing bloom, speeding progression through bloom, and advancing fruit maturity when applied at tightbud stage. Surfactant (2% or 4%) applied with 25% or 35% calcium nitrate (w/v) on 2 Feb. 1996 significantly advanced full bloom compared to nontreated controls. Fruit maturity (1995) was somewhat advanced by surfactant–nitrate treatments, but fruit set and final fruit weight were equivalent among treatments. No phytotoxicity was noted in foliage or fruit. In California, marginal and insufficient winter chilling often causes irregular, extended, or delayed bloom periods, resulting in poor bloom-overlap with pollenizers. As a result, flower and fruit development may be so variable as to have small, green and ripe fruit on the same tree, making harvest more time consuming and costly. Data indicate that this surfactant, in combination with a nitrogenous compound, has potential to advance reproductive budbreak and advance maturity in sweet cherry without reducing fruit set or fruit size. Advancing the ripening time of sweet cherry even 2 to 3 days can increase the price received per 8.2-kg box by $10 to $20.

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Stephen M. Southwick, Kitren G. Weis, James T. Yeager, Michael E. Rupert and Janine K. Hasey

In 1994, we established that a surfactant, Armothin (AR), reduced fruit set when applied as 3% and 5% AR at 100 gal/acre with a Stihl mistblower to `Loadel' clingstone peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch]. In 1995 we compared 3% AR at volumes of 100 and 200 gal/acre (935 and 1870 L.ha-1, the volumes most commonly used by tree fruit growers in California) applied with commercial airblast sprayer; overthinning resulted with the latter. In 1996, we applied 3% AR at 100 gal/acre and 1% AR at 200 gal/acre. In 1995, differential applications of 3% AR at 100 gal/acre (two-thirds of the material applied to either the upper or lower canopy) reduced fruit set in the upper canopy in proportion to the amount of chemical applied (twice as much fruit set reduction with twice as much chemical); fruit set in the lower canopy was reduced by an equal amount regardless of amount of chemical used. Salable yields, equivalent to those obtained by hand thinning, and improved fruit size were achieved with all treatments of 3% AR at 100 gal/acre in 1995 with a 76% reduction in hand thinning. Following a low-chill winter (1995-96) with a protracted bloom, flower bud density (return bloom) was significantly greater in 1995 AR-treated trees. In 1996, treatment with AR did not result in fruit set reduction due to the protracted bloom and poor weather conditions before and after bloom. Nonetheless, 1% AR at 200 gal/acre applied in 1996 increased salable yield and increased final fruit mass. Return bloom in 1997 was equal among 1996 treatments.

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K.G. Weis, S.M. Southwick, J.T. Yeager, M.E. Rupert, R.E. Moran, J.A. Grant and W.W. Coates

In continuing trials (1995-current), we have used a variety of treatments to overcome inadequate chilling, coordinate bloom, improve leaf out and cropping, and advance/coordinate maturity in sweet cherry, cv. Bing. Treatments have included hydrogen cyanamide (HCN, Dormex) and various surfactants or dormant oils combined with calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN17). Chill hour accumulation, (required chilling for `Bing' = 850 to 880 chill hours) has varied greatly in each dormant season from 392 (Hollister, 1995-1996) to adequate, depending both on the season and location (central valley vs. coastal valley). In 1998, 4% HCN advanced budbreak significantly compared to any other treatment, although other chemical treatments also were more advanced than the untreated control. Dormex advanced completion of bloom 11% to 40% more than other treatments, although other dormancy-replacing chemicals were at least 16% more advanced in petal fall than the untreated control. Dormex contributed to slightly elevated truss bud death, as did 2% Armobreak + 25% CAN17. In 1998, fruit set was improved by 2% Armobreak + 25% CAN17 (79%) compared to the untreated control (50%); all other treatments statistically equaled the control. Fruit set was not improved by Dormex, although bloom was advanced by a few days in this treatment. As fruit set was increased by treatments, rowsize decreased (as did fruit weight), as expected, but no treatment resulted in unacceptable size. In 1997, fruit set was also improved by 2% Armobreak + 25% CAN17; however, fruit set was so low overall in that year that no real impact was found. In 1997 and 1998, 4% HCN advanced fruit maturity compared to other treatments, with darker, softer, larger fruit at commercial harvest. These and additional results will be presented.

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S.M. Southwick, M.E. Rupert, J.T. Yeager, K.G. Weis, B.C. Kirkpatrick, E.L. Little and B.B. Westerdahl

Bacterial canker (BC), caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae van Hall, is a serious disease of stone fruits that occurs most commonly in young orchards. Many factors can predispose or increase the risk that trees develop BC such as sandy or compacted soils, low soil pH, inadequate tree nutrition, frost or cold injury, genetic susceptibility, and presence of ring nematode, Criconemella spp. However, questions still remain about how these factors influence disease incidence in `French' prune, Prunus domestica L. In 1991, we established a 3.64-ha plot in Winters, Calif., to determine the effects of nitrogen (N) fertigation on growth responses and yield of young prune trees. N was applied through a surface drip system at 0, 0.11, 0.23, and 0.45 kg actual N/tree per year as UN32 urea (Unocal, Sacramento Calif.) with 1/10th of the total amount delivered per application every other week from May through September starting in 1992. Two other treatments were also included: 0.064 kg N/tree per year through surface drip if % leaf N dropped below 2.3%, and 0.23 kg N/tree/year delivered in small amounts every irrigation via an automated buried drip system. Symptoms of BC began appearing primarily in the 0- and 0.064-N treatments in 1993. During 1995 and 1996, we demonstrated highly significant relationships between low N status measured in leaves and increased incidence of BC. Furthermore, we determined levels of N application via drip irrigation, which resulted in good yields, vigorous growth, and lack of BC in our test plots, but also minimized N use and potential for nitrate leaching into groundwater. These and additional results will be presented.