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  • Author or Editor: Wilhelm Rademacher x
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APOGEE and REGALIS have recently been introduced in a number of countries for use in pome and other fruit trees. These products contain 27.5% and 10% of prohexadione-Ca (ProCa), respectively. As a result of inhibiting excessive vegetative growth, less summer and dormant pruning is required, the ratio between vegetative growth and fruit formation is improved, and crop protection is facilitated due to the reduction of tree row volume and a more open canopy. Additionally, a lowered incidence of diseases such as fire blight and scab is observed, which is not due to a direct bactericidal or fungicidal effect of the compound. Further, the compound may reduce fruit drop early in the season. Prohexadione is a structural mimic of 2-oxoglutaric and ascorbic acid. Therefore, distinct dioxygenases are blocked, which require these compounds as a co-substrate. Such enzymes catalyze late steps in gibberellin biosynthesis. After treatment with ProCa, less growth-active gibberellins are formed and treated plants remain more compact. ProCa also affects ACC oxidase, another dioxygenase. The resulting reduction of ethylene formation, in addition to the availability of more assimilates for fruit growth, is most likely the cause of reduced fruit drop. 2-Oxoglutaric acid-dependent dioxygenases are also involved in the metabolism of flavonoids and their phenolic precursors: In shoots of apples and pears, ProCa causes considerable changes by inhibiting flavanone 3-hydroxylase. Convincing evidence is now available that ProCa triggers pathogen resistance by inducing the formation of 3-deoxyflavonoids, in particular luteoforol, with phytoalexin-like properties. Morphoregulatory effects caused by ProCa are only of secondary relevance for the reduction of disease incidence.

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Plant growth regulators (PGRs) account for only a few percent of the worldwide sales of crop protectants. In recent years, most companies have drastically reduced their activities in the PGR area. The factors that have been of major relevance in this development are: a) Finding, developing and marketing a new PGR is more difficult and requires a considerably higher input as compared to other types of crop protectants, b) many segments of the market are fairly saturated with competitively priced products, and c) intensified legislation for the registration of new, and the re-registration of established products, has become a severe constraint, due to its absorbing large working and financial capacities. For these and other reasons, new types of PGRs will be economically viable only under certain circumstances, such as: a) A sufficiently large and profitable market guarantees a reasonable return on investment, b) costs for registration can be reduced by developing naturally occurring compounds, which may require considerably less toxicological and eco-toxicological studies, and c) PGR-like side activities of an existing herbicide, fungicide or insecticide can be exploited, which would, again, significantly reduce the costs for registration.

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Prohexadione-Ca (BAS 125 W) is a new growth retardant for the inhibition of excessive vegetative growth in apple and other plant species. From work with enzyme preparations, it is known that prohexadione-Ca mimics 2-oxoglutaric acid, the co-substrate of dioxygenases, which catalyze late steps in gibberellin (GA) biosynthesis. As a result, the formation of growth-active GAs is reduced. In order to have a better understanding of its effects in intact plants, we have analyzed the GA status of treated and untreated apple plantlets. In a typical experiment, the following results were obtained: Plants (cv. Jonagold on M9 at 19 cm of new shoot growth) were sprayed until run-off with an aqueous preparation containing 25 ppm of active ingredient. After 22 days of cultivation under greenhouse conditions, total new shoot growth of the controls and the treated plants was 55 cm and 44 cm, respectively. In the apical part of this material the following GAs (roughly ordered in biosynthetic sequence) were detected at the following levels (control/treated in microgram per kilogram dry weight): GA19 (31/62), GA29 (24/36), GA20 (11/20), GA1 (4/3), and GA8 (8/3). These results clearly demonstrate that prohexadione-Ca blocks primarily the hydroxylation of GA20 into GA1. This leads to reduced levels of the highly active GA1 and of GA8, its inactive metabolite, whereas GA20 and the other inactive precursors accumulate. The data support older observations obtained in vitro, which indicate that GA20 3β-hydroxylase and related dioxygenases are the primary targets of prohexadione-Ca and similar compounds.

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Prohexadione-Ca (Apogee®) was tested as a growth retardant and fire-blight control agent in the pear (Pyrus communis L. cv. Abbé Fétel) on both bearing trees in the orchard and on 1-year-old scions under greenhouse conditions. Four sprays of 50 and 100 mg·L-1 of the chemical were applied to trees in the orchard at 2-week intervals starting at petal fall, when terminal growth was 4 cm (mid-April). Scions received a single application (250 mg·L-1) and were transferred 2 weeks later to a greenhouse where the shoots were inoculated with a local, virulent strain of Erwinia amylovora (Burrill) Winslow et al. In the orchard, the higher prohexadione-Ca concentration was more effective in reducing shoot growth, enhancing fruit weight and controlling fire blight incidence and severity. Similar effects on growth parameters and disease progression were observed under greenhouse conditions. Chemical name used: calcium 3-oxido-4-propionyl-5-oxo-3-cyclohexene carboxylate (prohexadione-Ca)

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