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Stephen M. Southwick

Commercially grown apricots (Prunus armeniaca), peaches (Prunus persica), nectarines (Prunus persica), plums (Prunus salicina and Prunus domestica), and pluots (Prunus salicina × Prunus armeniaca) have a tendency to produce high numbers of flowers. These flowers often set and produce more fruit than trees can adequately size to meet market standards. When excessive fruit set occurs, removal of fruit by hand-thinning is common to ensure that fruit size meets market standards. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to find chemical or physical techniques that would help to reduce costs associated with and improve efficiencies of hand-thinning; however, using alternate strategies to hand-thinning have not been widely adopted in stone fruit production. In the past 10 years, through the continuing efforts of scientists throughout the world in public and private institutions and business, it appears that there are chemical sprays capable of reducing the need for hand-thinning in stone fruit. Management of flowering by reducing the number of flowers on apricot, peach, nectarine, plum, and prune has shown promise under climatic conditions such as those found in the San Joaquin Valley of California. By applying gibberellins during May through July, flowers in many stone fruit cultivars can be reduced in the following season. The reduction in flower number does not generally lead to an increase in fruit set. As a result, fruit numbers are reduced, the need for hand thinning can be reduced, and in some cases eliminated. There are risks associated with reducing flower number before climatic conditions during bloom or final fruit set are known. However, given the changes in labor costs and market demands, especially in the developed world, the benefits may outweigh the risks. The application and implications of these summer gibberellin applications toward reducing flower numbers will be discussed as it relates to commercial stone fruit growing.

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Stephen M. Southwick and Kitren Glozer

Many commercially grown stone fruit including apricots (Prunus armeniaca L.), peaches and nectarines [P. persica (L.) Batsch], plums (P. salicina Lindl., P. domestica L.), prunes (P. domestica L.), and pluots (P. salicina × P. armeniaca) have a tendency to produce high numbers of flowers. These flowers often set and produce more fruit than trees can adequately size to meet market standards. When excessive fruit set occurs, removal of fruit by hand thinning is necessary in most Prunus L. species to ensure that remaining fruit attain marketable size and reduce biennial bearing. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to find chemical or physical techniques that would help to reduce the costs associated with and improve efficiencies of hand thinning, however, alternate strategies to hand thinning have not been widely adopted for stone fruit production. In the past 10 years, several chemical treatments have shown promise for reducing hand thinning needs in stone fruit. Management of flowering by chemically reducing the number of flowers has been particularly promising on stone fruit in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California. Gibberellins (GAs) applied during May through July, have reduced flowering in the following season in many stone fruit cultivars without affecting percentage of flowers producing fruit. As a result, fruit numbers are reduced, the need for hand thinning is reduced and in some cases eliminated, and better quality fruit are produced. There are risks associated with reducing flower number before climatic conditions during bloom or final fruit set are known. However, given the changes in labor costs and market demands, the benefits may outweigh the risks. This paper reviews relevant literature on thinning of stone fruit by gibberellins, and summarizes research reports of fruit thinning with GAs conducted between 1987 and the present in California. The term thin or chemically thin with regard to the action of GA on floral buds is used in this paper, consistent with the literature, although the authors recognize that the action of GA is primarily to inhibit the initiation of floral apices, rather than reduce the number of preformed flowers. At relatively high concentrations, GA may also kill floral buds. Chemical names used: gibberellic acid, potassium gibberellate.

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Stephen M. Southwick and Kitren G. Weis

Selection and propagation of rootstocks for apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) varies worldwide in response to local climate, soils, and cultivars. In this paper we review published research focused on these local selective practices. Additionally, we review the current development of apricot rootstocks and suggest new research avenues to satisfy the needs of commercial apricot growers. Rootstocks are identified by their responses to biotic and environmental stresses, with specific adaptive characteristics that enable establishment and production under unique zonal ecologies. Desirable characteristics include scion compatibility, adaptation for heavy or wet soils, pest and disease resistance, ease of propagation, control of vegetative vigor, effects on dormant season physiology of the scion, precocity, fruit quality, and productivity. Interstocks that can overcome incompatible rootstock-scion combinations are covered. As worldwide consumer demand for apricots increases with improved apricot cultivars, rootstock selections and propagation must be developed for niche fruit with specific characteristics, intensive production systems, mechanized harvest, and marginal site selection.

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Renae E. Moran and Stephen M. Southwick

Secondary bloom provides fireblight infection sites in pears (Pyrus communis L.) growing in the western U.S. Five types of secondary bloom occur in `Bartlett', and one of these, Type V, occurs mainly as a result of pruning. We examined the effect of pruning dates (Feb. to Sept. 1999), shoot age ranging from 1 to 4 years old, and type of pruning cut (i.e., heading, stubbing, or thinning) on Type V secondary bloom. Pruning date was a significant factor determining whether Type V would occur. There was a greater chance for Type V to occur from pruning in February or March than for pruning from May through September. There was an increase in Type V with increase in shoot age when pruning 11 Feb., 17 Mar., 14 May, or 11 Aug. There was no shoot age effect when pruning 18 June or 30 Sept. Type of pruning cut affected the number of Type V that occurred when pruning 14 May, 18 June, or 11 Aug., but the effect of type of pruning cut was inconsistent between these dates. There was no effect of type of pruning cut when pruning 11 Feb., 17 Mar., or 30 Sept. These results indicate that summer or postharvest pruning may reduce the number of Type V secondary bloom, particularly on shoots older than one year. This information can be used to develop a pruning strategy that reduces the number of Type V secondary bloom and potentially the number of fireblight infection sites.

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Stephen M. Southwick and James T. Yeager

Heavy fruit set of apricot (Prunus armeniaca) cultivars grown in California often require hand thinning to insure that adequate fruit size is obtained. Alternatives to costly hand thinning would be welcome. GA treatments made during flower bud initiation/differentiation have been previously shown to inhibit the development of floral and vegetative buds in a number of different tree fruit species. The effects of post-harvest limb and whole tree aqueous gibberellic acid (GA) sprays on flower and fruit production were investigated over a 3 year period in `Patterson' apricot. Limb treatments indicated the potential for utilizing postharvest GA sprays to reduce the number of flowers produced in the following season. Harvest fruit size (June 1989) was increased by a 100 mg·liter-1 GA whole tree spray applied 7 July 1988 when compared to non-thinned and hand thinned trees. Yield per tree was reduced by that GA spray, but not enough to show statistical differences. No abnormal tree growth responses have been observed in GA-sprayed trees to date. These results and those from the 1989 and 1990 growing seasons will be presented in effort to identify a role for whole tree postharvest GA sprays in a chemical thinning program suitable for commercial apricots.

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Stephen M. Southwick and James T. Yeager

Sweet cherries produce vigorous upright growth from Apr.-Sept. and are slow to bear in California. Our tree training objectives include earlier bearing, easier harvesting, high productivity of good quality fruit. `Bing' cherry on mazzard and mahaleb rootstock were planted in 7 blocks and trained 6 ways. One group was headed 12-18 inches above the bud union and 4 branches were retained at the 1st dormant pruning. Lateral buds were treated with promalin at bud-break to induce lateral shoot formation. Trees were spring-summer pruned to reduce terminal growth. At the second dormant pruning, strong shoots were removed and lateral shoots were treated with promalin to induce spur formation. Trees were treated likewise through the 3rd dormant season and produced a fair crop in the 4th season. Central leader trees were created by tying/weighting limbs, dormant and summer pruning, and retaining less vigorous limbs as well as utilizing promalin. Slow growing trees tended to bear fruit more rapidly. Both training methods yielded fruit in the 4th season while traditional pruning procedures produced few fruit. Data and procedures will be presented to document these practices.

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Riaz Ahmad, Darush Struss and Stephen M. Southwick

We evaluated the potential of microsatellite markers for use in Citrus genome analysis. Microsatellite loci were identified by screening enriched and nonenriched libraries developed from `Washington Navel' Citrus. Microsatellite-containing clones were sequenced and 26 specific PCR primers were selected for cross-species amplification and identification of cultivars/clones in Citrus. After an enrichment procedure, on average 69.9% of clones contained dinucleotide repeats (CA)n and (CT)n, in contrast to <25% of the clones that were identified as positive in hybridization screening of a nonenriched library. A library enriched for trinucleotide (CTT)n contained <15% of the clones with (CTT)n repeats. Repeat length for most of the dinucleotide microsatellites was in the range of 10 to 30 units. We observed that enrichment procedure pulled out more of the (CA)n repeats than (CT)n repeats from the Citrus genome. All microsatellites were polymorphic except one. No correlation was observed between the number of alleles and the number of microsatellite repeats. In total, 118 putative alleles were detected using 26 primer pairs. The number of putative alleles per primer pair ranged from one to nine with an average of 4.5. Microsatellite markers discriminated sweet oranges [Citrus sinensis (L.) osb], mandarin (Citrus reticulata Blanco), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi Macf.), lemon [Citrus limon (L.) Burm.f.], and citrange (hybrids of trifoliate orange and sweet orange), at the species level, but individual cultivars/clones within sweet oranges, mandarins and grapefruit known to have evolved by somatic mutation remained undistinguishable. Since these microsatellite markers were conserved within different Citrus species, they could be used for linkage mapping, evolutionary and taxonomic study in Citrus.

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Riaz Ahmad, Louise Ferguson and Stephen M. Southwick

A genomic DNA library enriched for dinucleotide (CT)n and (CA)n and trinucleotide (CTT)n microsatellite motifs has been developed from `Kerman' pistachio (Pistacia vera L.). The enrichment method based on magnetic or biotin capture of repetitive sequences from restricted genomic DNA revealed an abundance of simple sequence repeats (SSRs) in the pistachio genome which were used for marker development. After an enrichment protocol, about 64% of the clones contained (CT)n repeats while 59% contained (CA)n for CT and CA enriched libraries, respectively. In the (CT)n enriched library, compound sequences were 45% while for (CA)n it was 13.5%. In both dinucleotide enriched libraries, about 80% of the clones having microsatellites have a repeat length in the range of 10 to 30 units. A library enriched for trinucleotide (CTT)n contained <19% of the clones with (CTT)n repeats. Of the clones that contained microsatellites, 62% had sufficient flanking sequence for primer design. An initial set of 25 pairs of primers was designed, out of which 14 pairs amplified cleanly and produced an easily interpretable PCR product in the commercially important American, Iranian, Turkish, and Syrian pistachio cultivars. The efficient DNA extraction method developed for pistachio kernels and shells (roasted and nonroasted) yielded DNA of sufficient quality to use PCR to create DNA fingerprints. In total, 46 alleles were identified by 14 primer pairs and a dendrogram was constructed on the basis of that information. The SSR markers distinguished most of the tested cultivars from their unique DNA fingerprint. An UPGMA cluster analysis placed most of the Iranian samples in one group while the Syrian samples were the most diverse and did not constitute a single distinct group. The maximum number of cultivar specific markers were found in `Kerman'(4), the current industry standard in the United States, and the Syrian cultivar Jalab (5). The technique of using extracted DNA from pistachio kernal or shell coupled with the appropriate marker system developed here, can be used for analyses and measurement of trueness to type.

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Riaz Ahmad, Dan Potter and Stephen M. Southwick

Simple sequence repeat (SSR) and sequence related amplified polymorphism (SRAP) molecular markers were evaluated for detecting intraspecific variation in 38 commercially important peach and nectarine (Prunus persica) cultivars. Out of the 20 SSR primer pairs 17 were previously developed in sweet cherry and three in peach. The number of putative alleles revealed by SSR primer pairs ranged from one to five showing a low level of genetic variability among these cultivars. The average number of alleles per locus was 2.2. About 76% of cherry primers produced amplification products in peach and nectarine, showing a congeneric relationship within Prunus species. Only nine cultivars out of the 38 cultivars could be uniquely identified by the SSR markers. For SRAP, the number of fragments produced was highly variable, ranging from 10 to 33 with an average of 21.8 per primer combination. Ten primer combinations resulted in 49 polymorphic fragments in this closely related set of peaches and nectarines. Thirty out of the 38 peach and nectarine cultivars were identified by unique SRAP fingerprints. UPGMA Cluster analysis based on the SSR and SRAP polymorphic fragments was performed; the relationships inferred are discussed with reference to the pomological characteristics and pedigree of these cultivars. The results indicated that SSR and SRAP markers can be used to distinguish the genetically very close peach and nectarine cultivars as a complement to traditional pomological studies. However, for fingerprinting, SRAP markers appear to be much more effective, quicker and less expensive to develop than are SSR markers.

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Stephen M. Southwick and James T. Yeager

Hand-thinning is required every season to ensure large fruit size of `Loadel' cling peach in California. Hand-thinning is costly. Chemical thinning could help to lower costs of hand-thinning. Armothin® {[N,N-bis2-(omega-hydroxypolyoxyethylene/polyoxypropylene)ethyl alkylamine], AKZO-Nobel, Inc., Chicago; AR} was sprayed at 80% of full bloom (FB), FB and FB + 3 days. The spray volume was 935 liters·ha–1. Concentrations of AR were 1%, 3%, and 5% AR applied at FB. No damage to fruit was noted. Leaf and fine shoot phytotoxicity were seen at 5% AR. The amount of time needed and number of fruits thinned were reduced by those same treatments. Salable yield and fruit size after AR treatments equaled those found on hand-thinned controls. Armothin® shows promise for chemical thinning of peach when used as a bloom spray that damages flowers, thereby reducing fruit set. An experimental use permit was issued for use of AR for stone fruit thinning in California during 1995.