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D.W. Greene*, A.N. Lakso and T.L. Robinson

Several thinning experiments were initiated in 2003 to test the hypothesis that monitoring fruit growth is an appropriate and accurate method to predict final fruit set early enough to apply supplemental thinners if appropriate. A total of eight thinning treatments were applied in Massachusetts and New York. On the day of thinner application 70 to 100 spurs were tagged on 4-8 trees (replications). All fruit within a spur were individually identified and fruit were measured. At 2 to 3 day intervals fruit diameter was measured at a designated point on the fruit. Growth rate of the fastest growing 20 fruit on the untreated trees was used as the criteria to determine growth rate of fruit that would persist to harvest. A fruit on a treated tree was predicted to abscise if growth rate slowed to 50% or less of the growth rate of the 20 fastest growing fruit on untreated trees. Cold weather in 2003 following thinner application slowed the response time to thinners. Thinning treatments were applied to Delicious, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, and Gala at 7-9-mm stage. BA, carbaryl, and combinations of NAA and carbaryl were used. In Massachusetts accuracy of prediction of final fruit set at 7-11 days after application ranged from 87% to 100% with and average of 95% accuracy compared to final observed drop at the end of June drop in July. In Geneva, N.Y., the temperature was so unseasonably cold following application that prediction of final set at 7 to 11 days after application was between 68% and 79% with an average of 74% accuracy. We conclude that prediction of final fruit set following growth rate of individual fruit shows promise as an accurate predictor of final fruit set early enough to apply supplemental thinners if appropriate.

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T. L. Robinson, W. C Stiles and A. N. Lakso

In two field studies with `Redchief Delicious'/MM.106, 'Empire'/M.9/MM.106 and 'Mutsu'/M.9/MM. 106 trees on fertile silt loam soils, trickle irrigation increased vegetative growth during the first three years and resulted in a 16%-20% increase in cumulative yield over the first five years. When fertilizer was injected into the irrigation water weekly from mid-April until the end of June, tree growth was further increased and cumulative yield was improved an additional 11%-15% for a total of 27%-35% greater yield than the non-irrigated trees. In these studies, ground fertilization did not improve growth or yield unless trickle irrigation was also applied. However, ground fertilization was not as effective as fertigation.

Irrigation and fertigation increased the dry weight of roots by 23% and that of shoots by 36% in the first year resulting in a 10% reduction in the root/shoot ratio. Total tree dry weight was increased by 30% if trees were planted early (April 14) but only 14% if trees were planted late (June 10).

Early planting resulted in 17% greater cumulative yield than trees planted late. Initial tree caliper also had a significant effect on early growth and yield with large caliper trees yielding 12% more than the small caliper trees. The interaction of planting date, tree caliper and fertigation resulted in a 50%-70% increase in yield during the first five years.

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D.A. Rosenberger, T.L. Robinson, J.R. Schupp, C.A. Engle-Ahlers and F.W. Meyer

Effects of three sterol-demethylation inhibiting (DMI) fungicides and a contact fungicide were compared over two years at each of two locations to determine if fungicide treatments had differential effects on productivity, fruit size and shape, or gross returns for `Empire' apples (Malus ×domestica Borkh.). Treatments were applied four to five times per year during the primary apple scab season. Effects of treatments were assessed by comparing fruit set efficiencies, number of fruit per tree, total harvested fruit weight, and fruit length: diameter ratios at harvest. No significant differences were noted among individual treatments in any of the four trials. However, when treatments were contrasted by grouping individual treatments, significantly larger fruit size was noted for triflumizole treatments vs. combined fenarimol and myclobutanil treatments in one of the four trials and for captan or mancozeb compared to fenarimol and myclobutanil treatments in two trials. None of the DMI fungicides compared in these trials had any consistent adverse affect on fruit size, total yield, or estimated gross return per hectare. We conclude that the plant growth regulator effects of DMI fungicides are inconsistent and are unlikely to have significant economic impact on commercial apple production.

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J.R. Schupp, D.A. Rosenberger, T.L. Robinson, H. Aldwinkle, J. Norelli and P.J. Porpiglia

Three studies were conducted to evaluate the effect of post-infection sprays of prohexadione-calcium on the severity of naturally occurring fire blight infections on 3- and 4-year-old 'Gala' apple trees on blight-susceptible or blight-resistant rootstocks. Although post-infection prohexadione-calcium reduced the dry weight of fire blight strikes removed by pruning in one commercial orchard site, this treatment did not reduce mortality of young 'Gala' trees on M.9 or M.26 rootstocks, and did not reduce the incidence of scion or rootstock cankers on any of the rootstocks tested. We conclude that post-infection treatment with prohexadione-calcium is of no practical value in reducing fire blight symptoms on apple. Our results suggest that resistant apple rootstocks will be very valuable in increasing orchard survival in a fire blight epidemic.

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J.R. Schupp, T.L. Robinson, W.P. Cowgill Jr. and J.M. Compton

Three experiments were conducted on `Empire' apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) to evaluate the effects of hard water, calcium chloride (CaCl2), water conditioners, surfactants, and captan fungicide on the growth reduction and fruit cracking caused by prohexadione-calcium (PC). Two applications of 63 mg·L-1 PC provided season-long growth control in two studies. Adding a water conditioner to PC reduced shoot growth more than an application of PC in hard or soft water in one New York study. Ammonium sulfate (AMS) and Choice were equally effective water conditioners. PC provided no growth control of water sprouts and had no effect on fruit set or yield. PC applied at 250 mg·L-1 reduced fruit size. `Empire' fruit cracking and corking was severe, despite the use of only 63 mg·L-1 PC in two of the three experiments. This damage was exacerbated by the addition of a water conditioner, however AMS applied with a surfactant but without PC had little or no effect on either the severity or extent of fruit injury. In a third experiment, the addition of surfactants, CaCl2, or captan to 250 mg·L-1 PC plus a water conditioner had no effect on the severity of fruit damage. Fruit cracking caused by PC increased preharvest drop in two of three experiments, and increased postharvest rot in the Geneva, N.Y., experiment where fruit were stored prior to grading. Application of PC plus a water conditioner reduced estimated gross return per hectare for `Empire. We conclude that the fruit injury is caused by the formulated PC product itself under certain environmental conditions, and that this product should not be used on `Empire. Chemical name used: calcium 3-oxido-4-proprionyl-5-oxo-3-cyclohexine-carboxylate [prohexadione-calcium (PC)].