Peel color and blemishes in 'Granny Smith' apples in relation to canopy light environment
The dark green apple cultivar, Granny Smith (GS), makes up 25% of the South African apple industry. However, production of GS is becoming unprofitable as a result of a high incidence of sunburn, red blush, and pale green fruit that decreases the proportion of Class 1 fruit that is suitable for export to more lucrative markets. This study was conducted to investigate the relationship between canopy position and external fruit quality with the ultimate aim to devise pruning and training strategies to maximize export yield. During early fruit development [26 days after full bloom (DAFB)], chlorophyll concentrations were the highest in fruit from higher light environments. Good green color at harvest relied on exposure of fruit to high irradiance at this stage because 50% shading between 14 and 56 DAFB significantly decreased dark green color at harvest. Exposed fruit from the northern side of east-west rows received the highest irradiance throughout the season [53% of full sun photosynthetic photon flux (PPF)] and had the highest fruit surface temperature (on average 5°C above ambient). A high proportion of exposed fruit from either side of the row developed red blush. Only 22% to 39% of exposed fruit from the outer canopy did not develop sunburn or red blush. Partially shaded fruit from the southern side of east-west rows received '5% of full sunlight and had the highest chlorophyll concentrations and darkest green color at harvest. Deeply shaded inner canopy fruit received '2% of full sunlight, had low chlorophyll concentrations, and were lighter green in color. The 10% darkest green fruit received moderately high irradiance (25% to 45% of full sun PPF) during early fruit development (until '80 DAFB) but became progressively shaded (3% of full sun PPF) during the latter half of the season. Fruit that developed sunburn and the lightest green fruit were exposed to high (1300 mmol m-2 s-1) and extremely low (50 mmol m-2 s-1) light, respectively, throughout their development. In conclusion, maximum chlorophyll synthesis and dark green color require an open canopy during the first half of fruit development, whereas shading is necessary during the latter half of fruit development to avoid the occurrence of sunburn, red blush, and photothermal destruction of chlorophyll. GS may benefit significantly from the installation of shade netting if combined with rigorous pruning and vigor control.