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Steven J. McArtney

Ethylene evolution from detached fruiting apple spurs was measured after application of various bloom and post-bloom thinning agents. Ethylene evolution from fresh detached spurs of `Splendor' apple trees increased one day after application of a bloom thinning spray of ethephon or NAA, and remained higher than rates of ethylene evolution by detached spurs from unsprayed control trees for 6 (NAA) or 10 (ethephon) days. Both ethylene evolution and fruit abscission during the initial drop period were higher on trees treated with ethephon compared to NAA, however final fruit set was similar for these two treatments. Ethylene evolution was significantly higher following NAA application onto `Fuji' trees compared with NAAm, but final fruit set was reduced by a similar amount (≈20%) for both of these materials. Application of BA to `Pacific Rose™' apple trees when the average diameter of spur fruit was either 4 mm (6 days after full bloom) or 7 mm (12 days after full bloom) resulted in a significant increase in the rate of ethylene evolution and also reduced final fruit set. When application of BA was delayed until the average diameter of spur fruit was 14 mm (24 days after full bloom) neither the rate of ethylene evolution or final fruit set was affected. Although an increase in the rate of ethylene evolution was a prerequisite for thinning in the present experiments, the magnitude of this increase was not related to the final thinning efficacy. Chemical names used: benzyladenine (BA); 2-chloroethyl phosphonic acid (ethephon); naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA); naphthalene acetamide (NAAm).

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Steven J. McArtney and Dick Unrath

Experiments were carried out in the southeastern United States between 1998 and 2006 to evaluate the potential for applications of NAA, Ethrel, or both, in the on-year of a biennial bearing cycle to increase return bloom in apple. Four bi-weekly applications of 5 ppm NAA beginning in mid June (summer NAA) increased return bloom, measured as the percentage of floral spurs in the year after treatment. The level of return bloom on trees receiving a summer NAA program was more than 2-fold higher than on untreated control trees, averaged across seven different experiments. Four applications of 5 ppm NAA at weekly intervals leading up to harvest (August/September) increased return bloom also. Combining 150 ppm Ethrel with summer NAA sprays resulted in an additive effect on return bloom compared to NAA or Ethrel alone. The effect of flower cluster density on return bloom the following year was more negative on control trees than it was on trees sprayed with Ethrel in the previous year. Treatment effects on fruit maturity at harvest were generally neutral, although flesh firmness was reduced in some experiments. NAA or Ethrel sprays in the on-year of a biennial bearing cycle may provide a strategy for achieving more consistent flowering and cropping in apple.

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Steven McArtney and John D. Obermiller

Notching is a technique to stimulate shoot growth from paradormant buds with the long-term objective of increasing the cropping potential of fruit trees by developing new fruiting scaffolds. Notching is not commonly practiced by apple (Malus ×domestica) growers in the southeastern United States because results can be inconsistent; notched buds frequently develop into weak spurs producing a few leaves rather than strong extension shoot growth. Therefore, a study was initiated to investigate the potential of 6-benzyladenine (6-BA) to enhance the shoot growth response from notched buds on 2- or 3-year-old wood. Notching paradormant buds on the leader of young ‘Granny Smith’/‘M.26 EMLA’ (‘M.26’) trees at the pink bud stage resulted in new growth developing on 59% of notched buds; however, fewer than 4% of these extended beyond 1.0 cm in length. Spray application of a solution of 1.5 g·L−1 6-BA into the notch increased budbreak to 95% and the proportion of new growth that developed into shoots to 89%, with a mean new shoot length of 7.9 cm. In a timing study on ‘Granny Smith’/‘M.26’, the optimum budbreak and shoot growth responses to notching plus 6-BA treatment were observed between budbreak and 2 weeks after budbreak. Notching paradormant buds on the leader of ‘Fuji’/‘M.9 T337’ (‘M.9’) trees increased budbreak, with 83% of the new growth developing into extension shoots. Spray application of 0.75 g·L−1 6-BA into the notch did not increase budbreak or extension growth of ‘Fuji’/‘M.9’ compared with notching alone. Spray application of a solution of 6-BA directly into a notch made above a paradormant bud may greatly enhance budbreak and shoot extension responses in cultivars or situations where a poor response to notching alone is expected.

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Steven J. McArtney and Shao-Hua Li

`Braeburn' apple trees were treated with GA3 or GA7 at either 100, 200, or 400 mg·L-1, 2 years after being grafted onto 4-year-old `Royal Gala'/MM.106 trees in order to evaluate their effects on flower bud formation. Inhibition of flowering was observed on 1-year wood only and not on spurs in response to GA treatments applied later than 6 weeks after bloom. GA7 was a more potent inhibitor of flowering than GA3. These results indicate that GA treatments may provide a useful technology for the selective removal of flowers from 1-year wood in apple and may also provide a useful tool for overcoming biennial bearing in apple by inhibiting flower bud formation when applied in the light-cropping year of the biennial cycle.

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Steven J. McArtney and David C. Ferree

Grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.) were covered with an 80% neutral shade cloth from flowering until harvest to investigate effects of shade on early season vegetative development in the year after treatment. Shading reduced root dry weight, the concentration of soluble sugars, and amino nitrogen in xylem sap at budbreak, and leaf area expansion in the following year. Dry weight of roots on both shaded and nonshaded vines declined by more than 50% in the first 3 weeks after budbreak and then began to increase, but still had not recovered to prebudbreak levels, 10 weeks after budbreak. Total leaf area per shoot was reduced in the year after shading due to both fewer and smaller leaves.

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Steven McArtney, J.D. Obermiller and A. Green

A series of four experiments were undertaken to evaluate the effects of individual and combined applications of prohexadione-Ca (P-Ca) and GA4+7 primarily on fruit russet, but also on fruit set, fruit weight, early season shoot growth, and fruit maturity of ‘Golden Delicious’ apples (Malus × domestica Borkh.). A single application of P-Ca (138 to 167 mg·L−1) at petal fall (PF) reduced the severity of russet in three of the four experiments; however, multiple applications of 20 ppm GA4+7 at 10-day intervals beginning at PF generally reduced russet more effectively than P-Ca. P-Ca did not reduce the efficacy of GA4+7 sprays for russet reduction. However, GA4+7 sprays reduced the inhibitory effects of P-Ca on shoot growth measured 30 days after PF. A single application of P-Ca at PF had no effect on mean fruit weight at harvest. Fruit size was lowest for the combined P-Ca and GA4+7 treatment in every experiment, although there was a significant interaction between P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays on mean fruit weight in only one experiment. There were no consistent effects of P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays, alone or in combination, on fruit maturity parameters at harvest. These data show that a single application of P-Ca at PF reduced russet severity, and the effects of P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays on russet can be additive. The economic benefits resulting from a reduction in russet severity after combined P-Ca and GA4+7 sprays will need to be balanced against their occasional negative effect on fruit size. Chemical names used: prohexadione-calcium [3-oxido-4-propionyl-5-oxo-3 cyclohexenecarboxylate formulated as Apogee (27.5% a.i.)].

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Steven J. McArtney and John D. Obermiller

The normal window for application of thinning chemicals in apple extends from bloom until 3 weeks after bloom, when the fruit reach a mean diameter of ≈16 mm. After this time fruit are generally insensitive to standard chemical thinning sprays. The potential for the photosystem II (PSII) inhibitor metamitron and the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid (ACC) to thin apple fruit after the traditional thinning window was investigated in field experiments over three years. A standard rescue thinning spray of carbaryl plus ethephon plus naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) reduced fruit set of Gale ‘Gala’ if applied when the mean fruit diameter was 18, 20, and 27 mm in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. The thinning activity of 400 mg·L−1 ACC was equivalent to the standard rescue thinning spray in 2010, whereas 350 mg·L−1 metamitron reduced fruit set more effectively than either the standard or ACC in 2010. Application of 400 mg·L−1 ACC plus 350 mg·L−1 metamitron when the mean fruit diameter was 18 mm reduced fruit set to almost no crop in 2010. The combination of metamitron plus ACC exhibited thinning activity after application at 25 and 33 mm mean fruit diameter in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Increased ethylene evolution was found in detached ‘GoldRush’ fruit 24 h after applications of ACC from 11 mm to 27 mm mean fruit diameter, but not when ACC was applied at 31 mm mean fruit diameter. Ethylene evolution was much higher after application of ACC at the 11 mm or 17 mm mean fruit diameter stage compared with application when fruit diameter was 23 mm or 27 mm. The thinning activity of ACC was related to the period of maximum ethylene response. The effects of delayed applications of ACC and metamitron on fruit set tended to be greater when these two chemicals were combined, suggesting that the creation of a carbohydrate stress and the capacity to convert ACC to ethylene are both required to trigger abscission of apple fruit larger than 18 mm in diameter.

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Steven J. McArtney and David C. Ferree

Early season vegetative development of grapevines was studied in the year after imposing three cropping levels to mature `Seyval' vines in the field or establishing two light levels to potted `DeChaunac' vines growing in the greenhouse. Heavily cropped `Seyval' vines (averaging 90 buds, 15.8 kg fruit per vine over the previous two growing seasons) had 85% fewer count buds and 31% fewer non-count (latent) buds than lightly cropped vines (averaging 25 buds, 9.7 kg fruit per vine). The rate of leaf area expansion was reduced on heavily cropped vines. Covering `DeChaunac' vines in the greenhouse with 80% shade from bloom onwards reduced the leaf area per shoot in the year after treatment by reducing both the rate of leaf appearance and the rate of leaf expansion. The leaf at node four from the base of the shoot had the greatest area on both shaded and control vines; however, the area was reduced 33% on shaded vines. Data from the greenhouse experiment were used to model the effect of leaf size at the transition from sink to source on total source leaf area per shoot. Prior to bloom the total source leaf area per shoot was increased when individual leaves became sources earlier, i.e., at a lower percent of their final size. Whether a leaf became a source at either 30%, 50%, or 80% of its final size had little effect on total source leaf area per shoot after bloom. The proportion of source to sink leaf area at bloom was greater than 90% for both slow- and rapidly growing shoots (those on shaded and control vines, respectively). Expansion of grapevine leaves was reduced by heavy cropping and low light levels in the previous year, greatly reducing the source leaf area per shoot.

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Steven J. McArtney and Li Shao Hua

A single spray of either GA3 or GA4+7 at full bloom reduced the severity of the alternate bearing cycle of `Braeburn' apples, measured as the proportion of flowering spurs over the 2 years following treatment. Increasing the concentration of GA3 applied in the light-flowering year linearly reduced the proportion of flowering spurs in the following year and linearly increased the proportion of flowering spurs 2 years after treatment. Application of GA3 or GA4+7 at full bloom inhibited flower bud formation on spurs only, whereas, in a separate experiment, GA3 or GA7 applied later than 8 weeks after bloom inhibited flower bud formation on 1-year wood only. Thus, delayed GA treatments may provide suitable technology for the selective removal of fruit from 1-year wood in apple.

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Steven McArtney, John Palmer, Sue Davies and Shona Seymour

The effect of liquid lime sulfur (LS) and fish oil (FO) application during bloom on leaf photosynthesis (Pn) and pollen tube growth in apple (Malus ×domestica) flowers were investigated in order to determine their mode of action as a bloom thinning agent. LS increased the percentage of flowers with fewer than 10 pollen tubes per flower to more than 64% compared to 5% or less in the control. Pollen tubes were completely absent from 27% to 48% of flowers following LS treatment compared with fewer than 4% of flowers having no pollen tubes on control trees. These data indicate that 30% to 50% of flowers that open on the day of LS application are unlikely to set a fruit due to the complete inhibition of embryo fertilization. Increasing the rate of LS from 0.5% to 4% increased the proportion of flowers with limited pollen tube number in a concentration dependent manner. LS suppressed the rate of light saturated Pn; successive LS sprays during the bloom period had an additive effect on suppression of Pn and fruit set. In one study the reduction in Pn was greatest 12 days after application of LS but Pn recovered by about 19 days after initial treatment. In a second study Pn of primary spur leaves had still not recovered when measured 57 days after the first of three applications. FO had no effect on the number of pollen tubes per flower, but reduced Pn and fruit set by about 10% and 20% respectively. An increase in the proportion of flowers with no pollen tubes, and therefore no embryo development, can account, at least in part, for the thinning response following application of LS to apples during bloom. It is likely that suppression of Pn contributes to the thinning response, although the importance of this mechanism will depend on perturbation of the total carbohydrate supply to developing fruit.