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  • Author or Editor: Syuan-You Lin x
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In subtropical climates, inadequate winter chill limits blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus Watson) production by causing poor and erratic floral budbreak. To compensate for a lack of chilling, bud dormancy-breaking agents must be developed for subtropical blackberry production. Our previous study showed that gibberellic acid (GA3) promotes budbreak in three blackberry cultivars but has potential negative side effects on floral development in ‘Natchez’. 6-benzyladenine (6-BA) is a synthetic cytokinin that can act as an antagonist of gibberellins during floral transition. The objectives of this study were to evaluate cultivar × exogenous GA3 interactions, characterize dose effects of exogenous GA3, and examine synergistic effects of GA3 and 6-BA. Three field experiments were conducted in west central Florida. All spray treatments were applied at the end of the chilling period. In the first experiment, ‘Natchez’, ‘Navaho’, and ‘Ouachita’ were treated with GA3 at 0 or 99 g·ha−1. Budbreak was promoted by exogenous GA3 in all three cultivars (0.9% to 4.5% vs. 42.9% to 69.4%), but yield responses varied considerably. Exogenous GA3 increased the yield of ‘Navaho’ and ‘Ouachita’ by 560% to 931%, whereas it induced flower abortion and caused a 15% yield reduction in ‘Natchez’. In the second experiment, ‘Natchez’ was treated with GA3 at 0, 25, 99, or 198 g·ha−1. Budbreak increased linearly with GA3, but yield decreased exponentially with GA3 because of dose-dependent flower abortion. In the third experiment, ‘Natchez’ was subjected to five treatments: 1) water control; 2) GA3 spray application; 3) 6-BA spray application; 4) combined spray application of GA3 and 6-BA; and 5) sequential spray application of 6-BA at 9 days after GA3 application. Application rates were 99 and 47 g·ha−1 for GA3 and 6-BA, respectively. Exogenous 6-BA suppressed GA3-induced flower abortion only to a limited extent. As a result, GA3-containing treatments caused 65% to 83% yield reductions compared with the control (2382 vs. 410–823 g/plant). These results demonstrate that GA3 is a highly effective bud dormancy-breaking agent for blackberry. However, the drawback of GA3 is cultivar-dependent flower abortion, which cannot be fully mitigated by 6-BA. The use of GA3 can be an important management practice for subtropical blackberry production, but its practical implementation must consider cultivar-dependent responses.

Open Access

In subtropical blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus Watson) production, inadequate winter chill causes poor and erratic budbreak, whereas high temperatures and heavy rainfall deteriorate late-season fruit quality. We examined the effects of four defoliants [zinc sulfate (ZS), potassium thiosulfate (KTS), urea, and lime sulfur (LS)] on defoliation, budbreak, yield, and fruit quality of ‘Natchez’ blackberry grown under inadequate chilling conditions in two consecutive growing seasons. Plants were treated with defoliants at 187 kg·ha−1 via spray application (1870 L·ha−1) at the beginning of chill accumulation (late December). A nonionic surfactant (Agri-Dex) was added at 0.5% (v/v) to all treatments including the water control. Cumulative chilling hours (<7.2 °C) at the experiment site were 209 and 134 in the first and second growing seasons, respectively. Defoliation was only 40.2% to 55.5% in the control, but it was induced moderately by LS (69.7% to 84.7%) and severely by the other defoliants (81.7% to 94.7%). Budbreak was induced most rapidly by urea application, followed by LS, KTS, and ZS, advancing by 17 to 66 days compared with the control. Consequently, urea, KTS, LS, and ZS increased early season yield by 2.79, 2.55, 0.87, and 0.31 t·ha−1, respectively, compared with the control (0.12 t·ha−1). By contrast, the final percentage of budbreak and total-season yield did not show significant treatment effects. KTS caused cane dieback and increased bud mortality, resulting in the lowest total-season yield among the treatments. Importantly, defoliants had no negative impact on berry size and soluble solids concentration. These results suggest that urea, LS, and ZS are effective bud dormancy-breaking agents for blackberry and that they could be an important adaptation tool for subtropical blackberry production. Among the three defoliants, urea appears to be the ideal chemical option because of its consistent efficacy, favorable safety profile, and low application cost.

Open Access