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T. Caruso, P. Inglese, M. Sidari, and F. Sottile

Seasonal development of leaf area, leaf area index (LAI), dry matter, and carbohydrate content were measured from harvest 1992 to harvest 1993 in above-ground components of `Flordaprince' peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees grafted on GF 677 (Prunus persica × Prunus amygdalus) and MrS 2/5 (Prunus cerasifera free pollinated) rootstocks, which widely differ in vigor. Whole trees were separated into fruit, leaves, shoots, 1-year-old wood and >1-year-old wood. Sampling dates were coincident with key fruit and tree developmental stages: dormancy, fruit set, pit hardening, and fruit harvest. Rootstock modified the vegetative vigor of the tree, the seasonal partitioning of dry matter, and starch content in above-ground components. Leaf area, LAI, and total above-ground dry matter were twice as high in the most vigorous combination (`Flordaprince'/GF 677), which gave the highest yield, but had the lowest harvest index. Rootstock vigor did not affect soluble sugar concentration in any of the canopy components. Starch content was greatest during dormancy and in the oldest wood of GF 677 trees. During fruit development, starch content rapidly decreased in 1-year-old wood and perennial components; at pit hardening it was four times greater in MrS 2/5 than in GF 677 trees. The vegetative-to-fruit dry mass ratio by pit hardening was 3:1 for MrS 2/5 and 9:1 for GF 677 trees. Competition with shoot growth apparently reduced fruit growth, particularly during Stage I and Stage II, as fruit size at harvest was significantly lower (17%) in GF 677 than in MrS 2/5 trees.

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P. Inglese, T. Caruso, G. Gugliuzza, and L.S. Pace

Effect of crop load on dry matter partitioning was studied on 3-year-old peach [(Prunus persica (L.) Batsch (Peach Group)] trees of the early ripening `Early May Crest' (EMC) grafted on `GF677' and Penta (Prunus domestica L.) rootstock and the late ripening `Flaminia' grafted on `GF677' rootstock [(Prunus persica × Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D. A. Webb] and grown outdoors in 230-L containers, for 2 years. Fruit thinning was carried out 10 days after fruit set to produce different crop loads. Trees were sampled destructively throughout two growing seasons and divided into above-ground and root components, for dry matter and carbohydrate analysis. At the end of the fruit development period, in the first year, total tree dry matter accumulation was related linearly to crop load even when the increase in crop load greatly decreased vegetative and root growth. Total dry matter accumulation was highest in EMC/`GF 677' at any specific crop load, and EMC trees on `GF677' allocated relatively more dry matter than EMC/`Penta' trees to vegetative and root growth, even under increasing fruit sink demand. Two consecutive years of heavy crops resulted in an inverse relationship between crop load and dry matter accumulation of trees, due to a major reduction of vegetative, root, and fruit growth. The percentage of dry matter partitioned to fruit decreased with the vigor of the rootstock, and EMC/`Penta' trees had the lowest harvest index at each specific crop load. The early ripening EMC/`GF677' trees which had twice the harvest index of `Flaminia'/`GF677' trees for any level of crop load. `Flaminia'/`GF677' trees had the largest canopy size. Starch content in the roots was lowest for cropping trees and depended on the rootstock and on the length of the fruit development period, being highest for the late ripening `Flaminia'/`GF677' trees. Individual fruit weight decreased with crop load, and the reduction of fruit size was related to rootstock and time of ripening.

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T. Caruso, P. Inglese, F. Sottile, and F.P. Marra

Vegetative growth, fruit yields, and dry matter partitioning within above-ground components were assessed during three growing seasons for trees of an early ripening peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch `Flordaprince' on GF 677 rootstock) trained either to a free standing central leader (930 trees/ha) or to Y shape (1850 trees/ha). Individual trees trained to central leader gave higher fruit yield, had a significantly greater leaf area and accumulated more dry mass in above-ground components per tree than Y shape trees. The training systems did not differ in terms of yield efficiency (yield per trunk cross-sectional area) and leaf area index (LAI), but Y shape trees had a higher harvest index and fruit dry mass per ground area than central leader. Four years after planting, Y shape had 35% higher yield per hectare than central leader. The relative contribution of 1-year-old wood, shoot and leaf to the dry mass of the tree decreased with tree age. Four years after planting the dry matter partitioned to the >1-year-old wood components represented 60% of the total tree mass (excluding fruit) in both the training systems. Central leader trees had the highest relative vegetative growth rate during stage III of fruit development. Most starch depletion occurred from dormancy to pit hardening from the canopy main storage pools (>1-year-old wood), and was higher for central leader than Y shape trees. For the ease of management and the high crop efficiency, the Y shape can be successfully used for peach high density planting systems.

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T. Caruso, F.P. Marra, A. Motisi, and D. Giovannini

Length and distribution of the roots of 2-year old cv. `Flordaprince' peach trees grown under polyethylene greenhouse were studied over a two year period. The self-rooted, micropropagated trees were spaced 4.9 m between the row and 70, 52 and 42 cm. along the row to obtain a density of 3000, 4000 and 5000 trees/ha respectively. Orchard was clean cultivated, mulched along the row with black plastic fabric 1 m wide, and drip fertigated. Soon after harvest, for each density, the root system of one tree was totally excavated and root length, distribution, dry weight and nutrients content were determined. Total root length per tree was negatively related to planting density in two-year old trees (470, 380 and 320 m/tree respectively for 3000, 4000 and 5000 trees/ha). The shallowest root systems were found at 5000 trees/ha density and their length was unchanged from year to year. Root length density, ranging from 220 to 250 m/m), was only slightly affected by spacing in the two years. The roots were evenly distributed between the two sides of the rows.

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T. Caruso, P. Inglese, C. Di Vaio, and L.S. Pace

Fruit thinning is the most effective tool in regulating fruit growth potential for early-ripening peach and nectarine (Prunus persica) cultivars, and the common strategy is to space fruit 25 to 30 cm (9.8 to 11.8 inches) throughout the canopy, while scarce attention to the canopy environment in which the fruit develops. It is likely that different light environments within the canopy require different thinning patterns and to test this hypothesis, an experiment was set up to evaluate various fruit thinning patterns (fruit densities) in relation to fruit location within the canopy of early-ripening `May Glo' nectarine trees trained to Y-shape. Differentiated fruit thinning resulted in higher yield efficiency due to a higher fruit number and average fruit weight. Differentiated thinning hastened fruit harvest and shortened the harvest period. Differentiated thinning reduced fruit variability within the tree in terms of size and soluble solids content, resulting in a higher crop value.