Hand thinning is not often applied as a commercial cultural practice in citriculture due to the practice’s reliance on costly manual labor. However, hand thinning could provide unique benefits such as treatment selectivity and easier control over thinning intensity, as opposed to foliar sprays of chemical thinning agents. In “on-year” ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata) trees, summer (January) and autumn (April) hand-thinning treatments of removal of all fruit <20 and <40 mm diameter were evaluated for effects on leaf carbohydrates and fruit growth rate. Other factors assessed included treatments’ effects on tree total fruit yield, fruit quality, and fruit size distribution. In addition, two different summer hand-thinning treatments (removal of all fruit <20 and <25 mm) were evaluated for effects on fruit size distribution and fruit yield over two seasons to determine their potential financial implications. Summer hand thinning reduced the numbers of small fruit and increased initial growth rate of prevailing fruit. This resulted in larger numbers of premium-sized fruit per tree, without treatments reducing total fruit yield and fruit quality. Additional labor was eliminated by quicker picking of fruit during harvest, and in season 2, fruit yield was higher for summer hand-thinning treatments compared with control. A higher potential income resulted from change in fruit size distribution and the breaking of alternate bearing over the 2-year period. The results provide producers of late mandarin cultivars with an alternative to chemical thinning agents to manage crop load and improve fruit size in individual “on-year” trees.
Ockert P.J. Stander and Paul J.R. Cronjé
Ockert P.J. Stander, Johané Botes and Cornelius Krogscheepers
Under conditions of profuse flowering and excessive fruit set, citrus (Citrus sp.) fruit need to be thinned to increase the size of remaining fruit, reduce the intensity of alternate bearing, or both. Metamitron was recently developed as a chemical fruit-thinning agent for apple (Malus ×domestica) and pear (Pyrus communis), and it inhibits photosynthesis and is thought to transiently reduce the carbohydrate pool in fruit trees. Citrus trees are sensitive to carbohydrate stress during and immediately after flowering, but the response of citrus to foliar treatment with a photosynthesis inhibitor, such as metamitron, is unknown. The purpose of this study was to evaluate metamitron for its effects on leaf carbohydrates and its ability to chemically thin citrus fruitlets. Significant fruit-thinning effects were found in all the experiments conducted over two seasons. A 300 mg·L−1 metamitron treatment reduced leaf sugars and leaf total carbohydrates, and consistently reduced the total number of fruit per tree in both seasons in ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata), irrespective of the timing of application. In the second season, a reduction in fruit yield was reported with an increase in metamitron concentration, both in mass and number of fruit per tree. A 150 mg·L−1 metamitron treatment in November had no fruit-thinning effects, and fruit yield was not different from the control. The application of metamitron did not increase the fruit size of ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin and had no direct effect on other fruit quality attributes in either season. Metamitron can be used as a chemical fruit-thinning agent to reduce fruit numbers in ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin, but an increase in fruit size or quality should not be expected.
Ockert P.J. Stander, Karen I. Theron and Paul J.R. Cronjé
Various mandarin (Citrus reticulata) cultivars are prone to fruit splitting, a physiological disorder that entails cracking of the rind, starting from the stylar end of the fruit, with eventual splitting of the endocarp and abscission of the fruit. On two mandarin cultivars, Marisol and Mor, foliar applications of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), calcium (Ca), and potassium (K) were evaluated over two growing seasons for efficacy to reduce fruit splitting in Paarl, South Africa (lat. 33°69′S, long. 18°95′E). Foliar treatment of 10 mg·L−1 2,4-D directly after physiological fruit drop (APFD) compared with later dates in January and February, either alone or in combination with K, increased rind thickness and reduced fruit splitting of ‘Marisol’ and ‘Mor’ by up to 50%, without negatively affecting internal fruit quality. Treatments increased rind thickness and rind strength throughout fruit development in addition to fruit diameter, length, and growth rate, with no significant effect on rind coarseness. There was a slight reduction in juice content and titratable acidity (TA), but no effect on the total soluble solids (TSS). Application of 2,4-D APFD is thought to increase rind integrity due to a direct strengthening effect on the rind during early stages of fruit development.
Ockert P.J. Stander, Graham H. Barry and Paul J.R. Cronjé
The significance of macronutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) in leaves was studied in relation with their possible roles in alternate bearing of ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata) trees over a period of three seasons. Fruit load (“on,” a heavy fruit load, vs. “off,” a light fruit load) affected the leaf macronutrient concentrations, and the amount of macronutrients removed through the harvest of fruit, i.e., the crop removal factor (g·kg−1), was consistent in both seasons. The crop removal factors were higher for each macronutrient in “off” trees—harvest of 1 kg fruit removed ≈2.3 g·kg−1 N, 0.3 g·kg−1 P, 3.1 g·kg−1 K, 1.0 g·kg−1 Ca, and 0.4 g·kg−1 Mg, compared with 1.3 g·kg−1 N, 0.2 g·kg−1 P, 1.7 g·kg−1 K, 0.6 g·kg−1 Ca, and 0.2 g·kg−1 Mg in “on” trees. Fruit load per tree (kg/tree) of 84, 110, and 52 kg/tree in “on” trees, however, removed ≈217 g/tree N, 28 g/tree P, 296 g/tree K, 100 g/tree Ca, and 35 g/tree Mg, which was 1.5–6 times more than that of fruit loads of 14, 71, and 16 kg/tree in “off” trees. In “off” trees, N, P, and K, and in “on” trees, Ca accumulated in leaves to between 20% and 30% higher concentrations in season 1, but the higher macronutrient status did not manifest in or consistently correlate with intensity of summer vegetative shoot development in the current season, or intensity of flowering in the next season, the two main determinants of fruit load in ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin. Apart from some anomalies, the concentrations of macronutrients in leaves were unaffected by de-fruiting and foliar spray applications of N and K to “on” trees, and showed no consistent relationship with treatment effects on parameters of vegetative shoot development and flowering. Leaf macronutrients in alternate bearing ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin trees, fertilized according to grower standard practice, are not related to differences in flowering and vegetative shoot development, and appear to be a consequence of fruit load and not a determinant thereof.
Ockert P.J. Stander, Graham H. Barry and Paul J.R. Cronjé
The objectives of this study were to improve the understanding of the mechanism of alternate bearing and the role of carbohydrates in ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata) trees. Selected phenological responses were measured in natural heavy- (“on”) and low-fruiting (“off”) ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin trees grown under commercial South African production conditions. The relationships with seasonal leaf and root carbohydrate concentrations were evaluated at the shoot-, branch- and tree level over two seasons. Fruit load [R 2 = (−)0.80 and R 2 = (−)0.73 in seasons 1 and 2, respectively; (P < 0.01)] and the number of newly developed vegetative shoots [R 2 = 0.81 and R 2 = 0.78 in seasons 1 and 2, respectively; (P < 0.01)] were the most important determinants of return bloom. Sprouting of a higher number of new vegetative shoots from “off” trees compared with “on” trees (“off” = 863 and 1439 vs. “on” = 306 and 766) was not related to leaf carbohydrate concentration. Root sugar concentration peaked during full bloom and higher root growth activity was observed before a higher number of new vegetative shoots developing in “off” trees during summer. The root sugar concentration early in the season was ≈3-fold lower, and root and shoot growth were absent, or lower in “on” trees compared with “off” trees. These results concur with previous research and confirm that fruit load in “on” trees inhibits summer vegetative shoot development, which manifests in poor flowering and an “off” year. This study shows that fruit are the major carbohydrate sink and probably disturb the balance between vegetative shoot development and root growth by limiting carbohydrate allocation to roots.
Ockert P.J. Stander, Jade North, Jan M. Van Niekerk, Tertia Van Wyk, Claire Love and Martin J. Gilbert
This study aimed to determine the effects of different types of nonpermanent netting (NPN) on foliar spray deposition, insect pest prevalence, and production and fruit quality of ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin (Citrus reticulata) trees in a commercial orchard at Citrusdal (lat. 32 32′31″S, long. 19 0′42″E), Western Cape, South Africa. The deposition quantity (FPC%) of foliar spray volumes of 3500, 7000, or 15,000 L·ha−1 was greater for leaves of control trees compared with leaves treated with NPN during summer (January) (8.8 vs. 6.1; P = 0.0055) and winter (June) (4.8 vs. 3.1; P = 0.0035). Deposition uniformity (CV%) was better for control leaves during summer (64.9 vs. 75.2; P = 0.0062) and winter (59.6 vs. 80.5; P = 0.0014), and deposition quality (ICD%) was better during winter (79.4 vs. 84.2; P = 0.0393). There were no differences in FPC%, CV%, and ICD% for fruit when foliar spray volumes of 3500 and 15,000 L·ha−1 were used for the control and NPN treatment groups during winter. However, with a foliar spray volume of 7500 L·ha−1, fruit from the control treatment group had greater FPC% (19.3 vs. 6.1; P = 0.0262), CV% (70.3 vs. 50.9; P = 0.0484), and ICD% (57.1 vs. 79.9; P = 0.0157). There were no differences in macronutrient concentrations between the leaves of trees subjected to control and NPN treatments, but leaf zinc (<81%; P = 0.0317) and iron (<78%; P = 0.0041) concentrations were lower with the NPN treatment. During short NPN treatments, fruit yield was reduced by ≈37% compared with that after control treatment, and longer NPN treatments had no effect on fruit yield. The reduction in fruit yield with NPN was not related to the effects of NPN on foliar spray deposition or to lower leaf micronutrient concentrations. The lower fruit yield during short NPN treatments was most likely caused by fruit drop that was exacerbated by the removal of the NPN. In the long NPN treatment group, fruit damage caused by sunburn was reduced by 17%, but the outer canopy fruit experienced increased wind damage or scarring. Except for the lower titratable acidity content with the shortest NPN treatment and the higher Brix°:TA ratio with two NPN treatments, NPN did not impact other fruit quality attributes. The use of NPN excluded male wild false codling moths (Thaumatotibia leucotreta) (FCM) males; however, it was still possible to capture a very small amount of mass-released sterile FCM and wild fruit flies under the NPN.