Mechanical and chemical thinning of stone fruit

De Villiers, Michiel Hendrik Jacobus (2014-12)

Thesis (MScAgric)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Producing fruit of the appropriate size and high quality is of the upmost importance to realize a profit in the fruit industry. This can be achieved through bloom or fruitlet thinning to reduce the number of fruit left on the tree. The cost of production is rising and labour cost forms a large part of the total production cost. Thinning of stone fruit is labour intensive and expensive, so an alternative to hand thinning needs to be found. Two alternatives are chemical and mechanical thinning. Chemical thinners are not routinely used in stone fruit as it is in pome fruit production and gibberellins were evaluated in this study. The Darwin 300TM was evaluated as a mechanical alternative to hand thinning. It thins flowers during bloom, before fruitlet thinning by hand is performed. In our trials on nectarines and Japanese plums the objective of reducing the time required for hand thinning was achieved, with the Darwin 300TM reducing the time required by up to 50%. When the time required to thin was reduced too much it also reduced the yield, but this could be overcome by lowering the rotor speed or using different strategies during supplementary hand thinning at the fruitlet stage. The bloom thinning and reduction in yield led to an increase in the fruit size. Care should be taken when using the Darwin 300TM as the earlier thinning could increase pit splitting and/or fruit cracking, especially in cultivars that are sensitive to these defects. The optimal rate of thinning needs to be determined for each cultivar individually. The application of gibberellic acid (GA3) and gibberellin A4+7 (GA4+7) at the pit hardening stage in the previous season could decrease the number of flowers for the following growing season. There was no effect on the yield at harvest or fruit size in the season of GA3 and GA4+7 applications, but the fruit firmness was increased. This effect was more pronounced for the GA4+7 applications. Our objective of reducing the time required for thinning was achieved in some but not all cultivars. The yield was not significantly reduced, with the fruit maturity only delayed in ‘African Rose’ plum. Again no increase in fruit size was found, but the fruit firmness was again increased. The GA-applications therefore were not satisfactory in their reduction of the time required for hand thinning. A positive effect is the increase in fruit firmness, which could possibly increase the storage potential of the fruit without having negative effects on the other aspects of fruit quality but this needs further evaluation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Produksie van vrugte met die verlangde vruggrootte en hoë vrug kwaliteit is baie belangrik vir die realisering van ‘n wins in die vrugte-industrie. Met hierdie mikpunt in gedagte, is blom- en vruguitdunning baie belangrik om die aantal vrugte per boom te verminder. Die kostes geassosieer met vrugte produksie is besig om te styg en arbeidskoste vorm ‘n groot deel van die totale produksiekostes. Uitdunning van steenvrugte is arbeidsintensief en baie duur, dus moet ‘n alternatief vir handuitdunning gevind word. Daar is twee alternatiewe naamlik chemiese en meganiese uitdunning. Chemiese uitdunmiddels word algemeen in kernvrugproduksie gebruik, maar daar is tans geen chemiese middels vir steenvrugte nie. In hierdie studie was gibberelliene ge-evalueer as potensiële uitdunmiddel. Die Darwin 300TM is ge-evalueer gedurende blomtyd as ‘n meganiese alternatief vir handuitdunning. Die masjien verwyder blomme en verminder so die vruguitdunning benodig. In ons eksperimente op nektarien- en Japanese pruimkultivars het ons gevind dat die tyd benodig vir handuitdunning met tot 50% verminder is deur die Darwin 300TM. Dit het ook daartoe gelei dat die totale oes per boom verlaag is. Hierdie effek kan vermy word deur die rotor spoed te verminder of die strategie vir aanvullende handuitdunning aan te pas. Die feit dat die grootste deel van die uitdunproses in blomtyd uitgevoer is en ook die feit dat die totale oes per boom verlaag is, het daartoe gelei dat die vrugte groter was. Die vroeër uitdunning met die Darwin 300TM kan egter lei tot ‘n verhoging in vrugkrake en gesplete pitte. Dit moet veral in gedagte gehou word by kultivars wat geneig is tot hierdie afwykings/defekte. Die optimum tempo van uitdunning moet vir elke kultivar individueel bepaal word. Wanneer gibberelliensuur (GA3) of gibberelien A4+7 (GA4+7) by pitverharding toegedien word in die vorige groeiseisoen, kan dit lei tot die vermindering van die hoeveelheid vrugte in die volgende seisoen. Daar was geen effek op die totale oes per boom en die vruggrootte tydens oes in die seisoen van aanwending nie, maar die vrugfermheid is verhoog. Die effek was hoër na die GA4+7 as na die GA3 aanwending. Die mikpunt om die tyd benodig vir handuitdunning te verminder, is in sommige kultivars bereik. Die oes per boom in die opvolgseisoen is weer eens nie verlaag nie, maar die vrug rypheid van ‘African Rose’ pruime is vertraag. Geen effek is op die vruggrootte opgemerk nie, maar die vrugfermheid was weer eens verhoog. Die GA-toedienings het dus nie bevredigend die tyd benodig vir handuitdunning verminder nie. ‘n Positiewe effek is die verhoging van die vrugfermheid, wat moontlik kan lei tot die verhoging van die opbergingspotensiaal van die vrugte sonder enige ander negatiewe effekte, maar hierdie aspek benodig verdere navorsing.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95809
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