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J.K. Burns, U. Hartmond, R. Yuan and W.J. Kender

Methyl jasmonate (Me-Ja) is a naturally occurring ubiquitous compound in plants. Me-Ja is considered to be a putative plant hormone because of its effect on plant processes such as senescence, germination, tuber formation, signal transduction, ethylene production, and abscission at low exogenous concentrations. We applied Me-Ja to fruit or whole trees of `Hamlin' or `Valencia' orange to determine the potential of this compound as a mature fruit abscission agent. Me-Ja (0, 1, 5, 10, or 20 mM in 0.1% Kinetic adjuvant) was applied to whole trees with a handgun or boom sprayer rates of 4850 and 1790 L·ha–1, respectively. Alternatively, tree fruit were dipped in Me-Ja solutions. Fruit drop, leaf drop and ethylene production in both fruit and leaves and fruit detachment force in fruit were monitored at various times up to 2 weeks after application. Me-Ja treatment resulted in increased ethylene production in fruit and leaves 1 to 2 days after application. Fruit detachment force significantly declined 6 to 10 days after application followed by significant fruit drop. Applications of Me-Ja >10 mM resulted in an unacceptable amount of canopy defoliation. The results suggest that Me-Ja has potential as an abscission agent for citrus. Future work will focus on improving uniformity of application and response.

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U. Hartmond, J.D. Whitney, J.K. Burns and W.J. Kender

Two field studies were conducted to evaluate the effect of metsulfuron-methyl and 5-chloro-3-methyl-4-nitro-1H-pyrazole (CMN-pyrazole) on abscission of `Valencia' orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] during the 3-month harvest season. Solutions of metsulfuron-methyl at 0.5, 1, and 2 mg·L-1 active ingredient (a.i.) were applied at 10-day intervals beginning on 13 Feb. and ending 18 May 1998. Early in the harvest season, 1 or 2 mg·L-1 metsulfuron-methyl significantly reduced fruit detachment force (FDF) 14 days after application. Metsulfuron-methyl was less effective during a 4- to 6-week period following bloom (“less-responsive period”). After this period, metsulfuron-methyl regained the ability to loosen fruit. Applications of 2 mg·L-1 a.i. were more effective than 1 mg·L-1 in reducing FDF and causing leaf drop, but 0.5 mg·L-1 a.i. had little or no effect on FDF. Flowers and leaflets on developing shoots and young fruit completely abscised with 1 and 2 mg·L-1 a.i. Defoliation and twig dieback was extensive at all concentrations and spray dates, eliminating metsulfuron-methyl as a commercially viable abscission agent for citrus. In a separate experiment CMN-pyrazole at 50 and 100 mg·L-1 a.i. and metsulfuronmethyl at 0.5 mg·L-1 a.i. were applied to `Valencia' trees to determine fruit removal with a trunk shake and catch harvesting system. Application of both abscission materials before and after the “less-responsive period” resulted in a 10% to 12% increase in fruit removal when compared to control trees. Less than a 35% reduction in FDF was sufficient to significantly increase fruit removal. Only 100 mg·L-1 a.i. CMN-pyrazole significantly increased fruit removal when applied during the “less-responsive period.” Chemical names used: Methyl-2-(((((4-Methoxy-6-Methyl-1,3,5-Triazin-2-yl)-Amino)Carbonyl) Amino)Sulfonyl)Benzene (Metsulfuron-methyl); 5-Chloro-3-methyl-4-nitro-1-H-pyrazole (CMN-pyrazole).

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W.J. Kender, U. Hartmond, M. Salyani, J.K. Burns and J.D. Whitney

A field experiment was conducted to determine effects of concentration and spray volume of metsulfuron-methyl as an abscission aid for mechanical harvesting of citrus. Concentrations of 1, 2, and 4 mg·L–1 metsulfuron-methyl were applied to `Hamlin' orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] trees at 470, 1900, and 4700 L·ha–1 (0.5 to 19 g·ha–1 a.i.). Effective fruit loosening was achieved with all applications >1.9 g·ha–1 (4 mg·L–1 at all volumes, 2 mg·L–1 at 1900 and 4700 L·ha–1, and 1 mg·L–1 at 4700 L·ha–1). Heavy defoliation and twig dieback were observed on trees receiving 2 and 4 mg·L–1 at all volumes. Defoliation and dieback became more severe and flower development and fruit set were inhibited as fruit loosening increased. The use of metsulfuron-methyl as an abscission agent for `Hamlin' oranges is not recommended until conditions for its safe application can be determined. Chemical names used: methyl 2-[[[[(4-methoxy-6-methyl-1,3,5-triazin-2-yl) amino] carbonyl] amino] sulfonyl] benzoate (metsulfuron-methyl).