Original Articles

Growth regulator manipulation of apple bud dormancy progressions under conditions of inadequate winter chilling

Published in: South African Journal of Plant and Soil
Volume 28, issue 2, 2011 , pages: 103–109
DOI: 10.1080/02571862.2011.10640020
Author(s): L.A. Allderman, South Africa, W.J. SteynDepartment of Horticultural Science, South Africa, N.C. Cook, South Africa


Elgin (34°S, 19°E; 305 m.a.s.l.), typical of South African apple growing regions, accumulates 745 Utah Chill Units (CU) p.a. The chilling requirement of ‘Golden Delicious’ apple (Malus xdomesf/ca Borkh.) is c.a. 1100 CU. Consequently, the chilling requirement is not satisfied and delayed foliation is common. The aim of this study was to use plant growth regulators (PGR’s) to manipulate the progression of dormancy in order to reduce the chilling requirement of ‘Golden Delicious’ shoots in mature commercial orchards. A trial was conducted in a commercial orchard in Elgin during the winters of 2004, 2006 and 2007. To advance the onset of dormancy, 250 mg −1 abscisic acid (ABA) was sprayed several times during April and May of 2004 and 2006. To induce a shallower state of dormancy, cytokinins were applied during April and May of 2006 and 2007. Benzyl adenine (BA) was applied at concentrations between 250 and 1000 mg −1 and forchorfenuron (CPPU) at 15 mg −1. Progression of dormancy was assessed by harvesting shoots every 2–3 weeks from initial spray date until commercial rest breaking agents were applied in the orchard. The time interval for 50% of the shoots to exhibit budburst under controlled conditions was used as a parameter for depth of dormancy. Although shoots were sprayed on c.a. the same calendar dates each year and before any significant CU had accumulated, the physiological state of the buds at application varied from shallow to deep dormancy depending on the season. Therefore calendar dates were not a good criteria for spray applications and CU accumulation was not a prerequisite for the onset of dormancy. PGR’s altered the dormancy progression of ‘Golden Delicious’ shoots. However, their efficacy was dependant on the dormancy status of the buds at the time of application. Furthermore, the effect was not sustainable. The trees appeared to “normalize” after a short period of time and consequently the PGRs had no effect on the dormancy release or budburst the following spring.

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