Preharvest foliar sprays of prohexadione-calcium, a gibberellin-biosynthesis inhibitor, induce chlorophyll degradation and carotenoid synthesis in citrus rinds
Rind color is an important cosmetic preference of consumers when purchasing citrus fruit. As citrus fruit mature, a decrease in chlorophyll concentration unmasks the presence of carotenoid pigments followed by further synthesis of carotenoids, resulting in the first appearance of the characteristic orange color of mandarins and sweet oranges. Factors contributing to invigorating growing conditions are antagonistic to optimal rind color development and tree vegetative vigor as well as high gibberellin and cytokinin levels are also thought to adversely affect rind color. Thus, a method to increase preharvest rind color by moderating vegetative vigor using a growth retardant was investigated. Prohexadione-calcium (ProCa; Regalis), a gibberellin-biosynthesis in-hibitor with growth retardant activity, was applied to 'Nules Clementine' mandarin (Citrus reticulata Blanco), 'Navelina Navel' orange [C. sinensis (L.) Osbeck], and 'Eureka' lemon [C. limon (L.) Burm. f.] during the 2005 and 2006 seasons at 200 and 400 mg L-1 a.i. Rind color rating, colorimeter measurements, and pigment analyses were conducted directly after harvest, after ethylene degreening, and 3 weeks after cold storage. In the 2005 season, ProCa significantly increased rind color of 'Nules Clementine' mandarin and 'Navelina Navel' orange directly after harvest and after ethylene degreening by decreasing chlorophyll and increasing carotenoid concentrations in the flavedo of fruit but did not affect the pigment concentration of 'Eureka' lemon despite an improvement in rind color rating. After cold storage, however, rind color was not significantly different among treatments. In the 2006 season, rind color was significantly increased directly after harvest, and chlorophyll degradation together with carotenoid synthesis of all Citrus spp. tested were stimulated by the late 400 mg L-1 ProCa application. Therefore, foliar spray application of ProCa at a concentration of 400 mg L-1 applied 6 plus 3 weeks before anticipated harvest has the potential to increase preharvest rind color of early-maturing citrus cultivars as a result of increased carotenoid-to-chlorophyll ratio. This treatment provides a novel approach to manipulate chlorophyll degradation and carotenoid synthesis in citrus fruit, and these results support the hypothesis that there may be an inverse relationship between vegetative vigor and rind color development of citrus fruit. Therefore, by moderating vegetative vigor through the use of growth retardants, rind color of citrus fruit can be enhanced.