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S.M. Southwick, W. Olson, and J. Yeager

Soil applied potassium (K) may not alleviate K deficiency in fine textured California soils when high numbers of prunes per tree are produced leading to leaf necrosis and limb death. Because K demand is increased by fruit, K nitrate (KN) sprays appear to be a corrective option for growers in this situation. Our objectives were to determine best seasonal KN spray liming strategies to minimize K deficiency, quantify K uptake into leaves after spray and to evaluate spray effects on productivity. Results indicated that regardless of spray timing leaf K was increased by approximately 0.3% and three weeks later decreased 0.2%. Average leaf K in sprayed trees was 0.7% higher than untreated trees at harvest. Fruit fresh to dry weight ratios were lower (better) from summer sprayed trees than spring. Summer KN sprayed trees had yield efficiencies equal to those having soil applied K. Fruit size was similar regardless of K application method. Foliar KN sprays may be a viable K augmentation to soil application in heavy crop years on fine textured soils.

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K. Shackel, S. Southwick, and B. Lampinen

To be useful for indicating plant water needs, any measure of plant stress should be closely related to some of the known short and medium term plant stress responses, such as stomatal closure and reduced rates of expansive growth. Methods for the measurement of plant water potential (Ψ) are available, but conflicting results have led to disagreement as to whether any of these give an appropriate biological index of plant water stress. Some pressure chamber results may be attributed to an artifact of water loss following excision. Leaf and stem Ψ however, in addition to being numerically different, may not be equivalent indices of plant stress, and midday stem Ψ has proven to be a useful index of stress in a number of fruit trees. Day to day fluctuations in midday stem Ψ under well irrigated conditions is well correlated to midday Vapor Pressure Deficit, and hence can be used to predict a non-stressed baseline. A 50% decline in water use at both the leaf and canopy level were associated with relatively small reductions (0.5 to 0.6 MPa) in midday stem Ψ from this baseline in prune. In cherry, midday stem Ψ was correlated to both leaf stomatal conductance and rates of shoot growth, with shoot growth essentially stopping once midday stem Ψ dropped to between -1.5 to -1.7 MPa. In pear, increased fruit size, decreased fruit soluble solids and increased green color were all associated with increases in midday stem Ψ.

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S. M. Southwick, K. Shackel, and J. T. Yeager

`Bing' sweet cherry is the most widely planted cultivar grown in the Western US because of widespread market acceptance. High prices are associated with early maturing `Bings' so growers are inclined to plant in early maturing growing regions. High numbers of less marketable, abnormally shaped (deep sutures, spurs, doubles) fruit tend to be produced in these regions. It is thought that abnormal fruit development is associated with high summer temperatures. Dataloggers equipped with thermocouples were located in 7 California cherry growing regions. Thermocouples were positioned throughout tree canopies, monitoring flower bud temperatures for 2 seasons from May to October. A Richard's function was used to describe the relation of average daily temperature (July, August, September to the percentage of fruit with deep suture. Correlation coefficients (R2) of 0.85 and higher were found, with increases in average daily temperatures above 22C associated with the formation of abnormal fruit shapes. Heat lamps were used to increase spur temperatures 5-7C above ambient during the July through September period, High percentages of abnormal flowers were produced in the season after 2 July, but not after 21 August heating, Strategies to lower high summer canopy temperatures helped to reduce abnormal fruit shapes.

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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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S.M. Southwick, W. Olson, J. Yeager, and K.G. Weis

During the fruit growing season, April through August 1990, 1991, and 1992, four sprays of 20-22 liters/tree of KNO3 were applied to `French' prune trees (Prunus domestica L. syn. `Petite d'Agen). Spray applications of KNO3 were compared to single annual soil applications of KCl (1.4-2.3 kg/tree) and sprays of urea + KNO3 with respect to leaf K and N, fruit size, drying ratio, and dry yield. Potassium nitrate sprays were as effective, or better, than soil-applied K in maintaining adequate levels of leaf K throughout the season. Treatment effects were not carried over into the next year. Lowest leaf K was found in trees where no K had been applied. Those values were below the adequate level of 1.3% K and the untreated group developed K deficiency symptoms. Consistent effects on leaf K were not obtained when urea was applied and no negative effect on leaf K was demonstrated. Equivalent dry yields per tree were obtained by foliar and soil K applications. There was no best time for KNO3 sprays. Yield per tree was not enhanced when foliar K-N sprays were applied to trees that had levels of 1.3% K or more as of 15 Apr. 1992. Trees that were below optimum K in April tended toward improved dry yields after four K-N sprays. Trees that had no applied K were lowest yielding. Drying ratios and fruit size (number of fruit per kilogram) were not different among K treatments. Dry yields per tree were increased without a decrease in fruit size or an increase in drying ratio with either soil or foliar K application. These results suggest that foliar KNO3 sprays applied four times throughout the growing season can be used to correct incipient K deficiency in `French' prune and to obtain dry yields equivalent to those obtained with soil applications of KCl.

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G. S. Sibbett, D. Goldhamer, S. Southwick, R.C. Phene, J. Yeager, and D. Katayama

Variable lengths of water deprivation immediately prior to harvest were imposed on mature French prune trees for four consecutive years. Irrigation cutoff durations were about 45, 37, 30, 22, 17 and 12 days prior to harvest during 1986-89.

Predawn leaf water potential best reflected water deprivation length and reached minimum values of about -1.5 MPa with the most severe cutoff. Magnitude of peak stomatal conductance was reduced and occurred earlier in the day with longer cutoff regimes.

Rate and time-course development of preharvest fruit drop was variable from year-to-year, but there were no significant differences in total drop between cutoff treatments. Only in the fourth year, following three years of no difference were tree fruit load and yield significantly reduced but then only with the most severe cutoff. Soluble solids were higher and drying ratios lower with the longer cutoffs. Fruit size was significantly reduced in the third year of the experiment. Trunk circumferences were significantly lower only with trees subjected to the longer cutoff regimes.

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Bruce Lampinen, K. A. Shackel, S. Southwick, D. Goldhamer, and B. Olson

During this three year study, irrigation water was withheld from trees in a commercial drip irrigated french prune orchard (Butte County, CA), during different periods within the double sigmoid fruit growth pattern (stage I - III), and postharvest. Tree water stress associated with early season water deprivation was minimal, due to the presence of stored soil moisture and low evaporative demands. For mid and late season water deprivation there was no fruit growth stage that was particularly sensitive to water stress, although severe and prolonged stress caused smaller fruit with lower quality. For the three year average, irrigation treatments caused no statistically significant effects on fruit set or drop relative to the control, however most of the stress treatments increased return bloom relative to the control, resulting in higher fruit loads and higher yields. These results suggest that moderate water stress may enhance economic prune productivity.

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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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M. Clayton, W.V. Biasi, S.M. Southwick, and E.J. Mitcham

ReTain™, a commercial derivative of aminoethoxyvinylglycine, was applied as a single application at 124 g·ha-1 a.i. to `Bartlett' pear (Pyrus communis L.) trees 28, 21, 14, or 7 days prior to initial commercial harvest and at 62 g·ha-1 a.i. in combination with naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) at 92 g·ha-1 a.i. 14 days prior to initial commercial harvest. Maturity and quality of treated fruits at harvest and following storage were compared with those of nontreated pears in 1996 and 1997. Ethylene production by mature green pears at harvest was not significantly affected by ReTain™ treatments, although softening, loss of chlorophyll, and starch clearance were usually inhibited by the 14- or 7-day treatment. ReTain™ suppressed ethylene production, softening and loss of chlorophyll in ripening pears and mature green pears cold-stored for 4 months, although loss of chlorophyll did not differ in the cold-stored fruit in 1997. ReTain™ had little effect on softening during a ripening period of 6 days after 4 months of cold storage. Application at 14 or 7 days prior to initial harvest appeared most effective, often with little difference between the two timings, and the 28- or 21-day treatment or combined ReTain™ and NAA treatment were seldom more effective. ReTain™ applied 14 or 7 days before initial harvest delayed fruit maturation by 4-10 days depending on the maturity index. The maturity or ripeness of pears from the combined ReTain™ and NAA, NAA only, and control treatments was often similar or differed only slightly. Premature ripening, prevalent in 1997, was dramatically suppressed in fruit treated with ReTain™. Ripening of both ReTain™- and non-ReTain™-treated fruit with ethylene reduced premature ripening by ≈50%.

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R.E. Moran, S.M. Southwick, K.G. Weis, and B. Lampinen

Secondary or “rat-tail” bloom, a major site for fireblight infection of `Bartlett' pear, comprised 10% of the total bloom in 1997 and 20% in 1998. We are striving to find production practices that can be economically applied to reduce the number of “rat-tails.” Of the five known types of secondary clusters in pear, four occur on `Bartlett', the most numerous being types I and V. Type I rat-tails occur on the bourse at the base of normal clusters and bloom from 10 to 30 days after normal bloom. Type V rat-tails occur mostly at pruning sites and have one to three flowers per cluster, blooming 20 to 50 days after normal bloom. GA 3 or GA4+7 + BA were applied at 100 mg•L-1 in 1997 to reduce rat-tail bloom in 1998. In 1998, neither GA3 nor GA4+7 + BA had an effect on normal bloom or type I rattails. GA3 reduced type V rat-tails when applied at either 2 June, 2 July, or 15 Aug. but had no effect on type V clusters when applied at full bloom, petal fall, 16 June, or 15 July. GA4+7 + BA reduced the number of type V rat-tails when applied at either 2 June, 16 June, 2 July, and 15 July but had no effect when applied at full bloom, petal fall, or 15 Aug. Dormant pruning horizontal shoots resulted in as many rat-tails as vertical shoots, and heading cuts a similar number as stubbing cuts. Dormant pruning 1-year wood resulted in fewer rat-tails than 2-year wood. Summer pruning 21 or 49 days after bloom resulted in fewer rat-tails than pruning 10 days after harvest, but was similar to pruning 89 days after bloom. These and other results from ongoing work will be presented toward development of an integrated fire blight reduction strategy.