Crop Load and Time of Thinning Interact to Affect Fruit Quality in Sweet Cherry

  •  Sally Bound    
  •  Dugald Close    
  •  Audrey Quentin    
  •  Penelope Measham    
  •  Matthew Whiting    


Balanced crop load is key to the production of export-quality cherries. We investigated the level and timing of crop load regulation on fruit quality. Additionally we sought to investigate possible correlation between firmness estimated by compression test or flesh penetrability. Fruit diameter was similar between 1 and 2 bud/spur treatments but was significantly lower in the 4 bud/spur treatment at all thinning times in ‘Van’ in the 2010/11 season. In contrast ‘Sweetheart’ fruit diameter was only decreased at 6 and 8 WAFB in the 4 bud/spur treatment in 2010/11. This decrease in ‘Sweetheart’ was associated with significantly higher soluble solids and starch reserves in leaves, stem, trunk and roots 2-weeks post-harvest in trees thinned at dormancy, relative to trees thinned 8 WAFB. Fruit flesh firmness significantly increased with decreased crop load irrespective of time of thinning in ‘Van’ in 2010/11. In contrast flesh firmness was significantly higher in the 1 bud/spur treatment and similar between other treatments in ‘Sweetheart’ in 2010/11. In 2011/12 flesh firmness, soluble solids and colour significantly increased whilst fruit weight and TA significantly decreased 28 days post-harvest relative to at-harvest values. We found strong correlation between values obtained with the FirmTech II and the Guss fruit texture analyser. Sweet cherry fruit quality is optimised through attaining crop load of approximately 10 fruit per cm2 of limb cross-sectional area through thinning at dormancy or full bloom.

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