Journal Article

Relationships between spur- and orchard-level fruit bearing in almond (<i>Prunus dulcis</i>)

Sergio Tombesi, Bruce D. Lampinen, Samuel Metcalf and Theodore M. DeJong

Edited by Douglas Sprugel

in Tree Physiology

Volume 31, issue 12, pages 1413-1421
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tpr119
Relationships between spur- and orchard-level fruit bearing in almond (Prunus dulcis)

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Almond is often considered to be a moderately alternate-bearing species but historical yield data typically do not exhibit clear patterns of alternate bearing at the orchard level, while research has indicated that spurs (the main fruit bearing unit in almond trees) rarely produce fruit in two subsequent years. The objective of the present work was to analyze the bearing behavior of almond trees at both the orchard level and the individual spur level over multiple years to explain this apparent paradox. The 10-year yield patterns of three almond cultivars grown at three different sites within California were analyzed for tendencies of alternate bearing at the orchard level. At the individual spur level, data on spur viability, and number of flowers and fruits per spur were collected on 2400 individually tagged spurs that were observed over 6 years to characterize bearing at that level. At the orchard level one cultivar (Nonpareil) did exhibit a tendency for alternate bearing at one site (Kern) but other cultivars and sites did not. The orchard and the individual trees in which the spur population study was conducted showed tendencies for alternate bearing but the spur population did not. Only a relatively small percentage of the total tagged spur population bore fruit in any given year and therefore while individual fruiting spurs exhibited a high level of non-bearing after fruiting the previous year the spurs that did produce fruit in any year generally did not constitute enough of the total spur population to exhibit alternate bearing at the whole population level. Our results suggest that annual bearing fluctuations in almond are probably mainly due to year-to-year variations of parameters affecting fruit set and that high rates of fruit set in a given year may involve a larger-than-normal percentage of a spur population in fruit bearing. This would limit the size of the spur population available for flowering in the subsequent year and could cause alternate year bearing. However, from historical records, this would appear to be the exception rather than a normal circumstance. Therefore, almond should not be considered to be a strictly alternate-bearing species.

Keywords: alternate bearing; bearing fluctuations; fruit crops; spur viability

Journal Article.  5716 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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