Volume 77 Number 2 Article 2 Pages: 75-92
Year 2023 Month 4
Title: Summer Applications of Plant Growth Regulators, Ethephon And 1-Naphthaleneacetic Acid, Do Not Promote Return Bloom or Reduce Biennial Bearing in Seven High-Tannin Cider Apple Cultivars
Authors: David L. Zakalik, Michael G. Brown, Craig J. Kahlke, and Gregory M. Peck
Biennial bearing in high-tannin cider apple cultivars (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) exacerbates supply chain issues for cidermakers in North America.
Two experiments investigated the efficacy of using the plant growth regulators (PGRs) ethephon and 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) in midsummer (i.e., not for fruitlet thinning) to promote return bloom in cider apple trees, and effects of these PGRs on yield.
One experiment was conducted over three years at a commercial orchard in Lyndonville, NY, and the other over two years at a research orchard in Lansing, NY. The Lyndonville experiment compared hand-thinning against various combinations of ethephon and NAA, while the Lansing experiment compared hand-thinning and midsummer PGR applications alone against a combination of both treatments.
The Lansing experiment also assessed effects on fruit maturity and juice quality.
At Lyndonville, bloom and yields followed a highly “biennial” pattern for the PGR treatments and unsprayed control, while hand thinning reduced biennial bearing index (BBI) but also reduced three-year cumulative yield (kg/tree) compared to PGR treatments and control.
Cumulative yield, BBI, and return bloom were not significantly different among PGR treatments and the control for any cultivar in any year.
Return bloom did not differ significantly for any treatment compared to the control following the “off” year (2017). In the two-year experiment in Lansing, neither hand thinning, PGR sprays, nor a combination of the two increased return bloom relative to the control for ‘Brown Snout’, while for ‘Chisel Jersey’, hand-thinning did significantly increase return bloom in the first year, and PGRs did promote return fruit set in the second year.
The inefficacy of hand thinning and PGR sprays over a single season may be attributable to extreme long-term biennial tendencies at the Lansing orchard, which had little to no crop load management in the years preceding the experiment.
Further study is needed to identify ideal crop load and application rates for bloom-promoting PGRs for these and other cider cultivars.
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