McClure, K. A. and Cline, J. A. 2015. Mechanical blossom thinning of apples and influence on yield, fruit quality and spur leaf area. Can. J. Plant Sci. 95: 887-896. Apple (Malus×domestica Borkh.) trees tend to crop heavily, which often makes crop load adjustment necessary. This can now be achieved as early as bloom by mechanical removal/thinning of blossoms. High-density Empire/M.26 and Royal Gala/M.26 apple trees were mechanically (MBT) and hand blossom thinned (HBT) in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and their effects on fruit set, subsequent hand thinning, final crop load, and spur leaf area were measured. In both years, MBT effectively thinned trees and reduced fruit set, but did not reduce the requirement for follow-up hand fruitlet thinning after June drop in 2011. In 2010, harvest yields for MBT treatments decreased, while weight and diameter increased. In 2011, most harvest and fruit quality parameters were unaffected by thinning. Trees that were mechanically thinned had significantly reduced spur leaf area, but were similar to unthinned control trees with respect to many of the yield and quality parameters measured. Mechanical blossom thinning is a new crop load management option for apple growers looking to supplement more traditional chemical and hand thinning techniques.
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