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Journal of the American Pomological Society
(J Am Pom Soc)

American Pomological Society

Volume 72 Number 4 Article 2 Pages: 222-230
Year 2018 Month 10
Title: Effects of Early Cropping on Growth and Yield of Southern Highbush Blueberry Cultivars (Vaccinium corymbosum L. Interspecific Hybrids
Authors: Marcela P. Borda, Maria A. Pescie, Norberto F. Gariglio
Early cropping, no removal of fruit buds for the first 2 years after planting, allows blueberry growers to gain early partial recovery of orchard establishment costs and to avoid additional costs associated with flower bud thinning. However, as with most young fruiting plants, the presence of fruit affects root and vegetative growth. The effects of early cropping on growth and yield of two 1-year-old southern highbush blueberry cultivars were evaluated using potted plants. Experiments with ‘Star’ (high vigor) and ‘O’Neal’ (medium to low vigor) were conducted over the course of 3 consecutive years. The four treatments were a control (T0), or 100% flower bud (FB) removal during the first 2 years after potting; 100% and 50% FB removal at year 1 and year 2, respectively (T1); 50% and 0% FB removal at year 1 and year 2, respectively (T2); and no removal of flower buds during the first 2 years after planting (T3). In the third year of growth, flowers were not removed for any of the treatments. Three vegetative variables (number of shoots, number of leaves, and total leaf area per plant) and four reproduc-tive variables (number of flower buds, number of fruits, annual fruit yield per plant, and cumulative fruit yield per plant) were measured annually. Fruit yield was quantified as number and weight of fruit at harvest. At the end of the third growing season, each plant was destructively harvested to obtain dry weight of its organs. In both cultivars, high early cropping fruit yields did not negatively affect vegetative or reproductive plant growth, nor did early cropping affect root crown or canes dry weight accumulation. High crop load during the first year did not reduce fruit yield the second year; however, high crop load during the second year reduced fruit yield the third year. Early cropping was a feasible practice for ‘Star’ and ‘O’Neal’ cultivars of southern highbush blueberry grown in warm–temperate areas of Argentina. Cultivar vigor did not clearly influence the response of plants to early cropping.

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