Effects of different crop loads and thinning times on yield, fruit quality, and return bloom in Malus x domestica Borkh. 'Elstar'
Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology: 117-121
'Elstar' is the latest-maturing commercial apple cultivar grown in Norway, with high fruit quality when properly managed. In May 2006, an experiment with four different crop loads [2, 4, 6, or 8 flowers or fruitlets cm(-2) trunk cross-sectional area (TCSA), respectively] was established at two different stages [first bloom (FB), or 20-mm diameter fruitlets] and compared to unthinned control trees. Fruit growth was measured oil individual fruit for each treatment throughout the season at weekly intervals. Thinning at FB gave a significantly lower final percentage fruit set than thinning to the same cropping level at the 20-mm fruitlet stage. However, fruit weights and soluble solids contents (SSC) were significantly higher, and the background fruit colour improved when trees were thinned at FB. The final number of fruit at harvest was less than the amount established at FB, or at the 20-mm fruitlet stage. There were significant differences between treatments in final fruit numbers per TCSA, which reflected the different crop loads. Fruit weights and SSC values were highest with the lowest crop load, and decreased with increasing crop loads. There was also a strong crop-load effect on the extent of return bloom per tree in the subsequent year. Trees thinned at FB had significantly more flower clusters than those thinned at the 20-mm fruitlet stage of. Untreated control trees had the lowest number of flower clusters. The amount of return bloom declined with increasing crop load. Second year crop loads and fruit weights were highest when trees were thinned at FB to two or four apples cm(-2) TCSA in the previous year. Trees with the highest crop load had the lowest crop load in the following year. Fruit quality was generally high for all treatments.