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Timing of fruit removal affects concurrent vegetative growth and subsequent return bloom and yield in olive (Olea europaea L.)

Gilat Research Centre, Agricultural Research Organization, Ministry of Agriculture, Mobile Post Negev 85280, Israel; The Kennedy-Leigh Centre for Horticultural Research, The Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Scientia Horticulturae 01/2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.scienta.2009.11.014

ABSTRACT Olive (Olea europaea) demonstrates a high tendency toward alternate fruit production, with significant negative consequences on the industry. Fruit load is one of the main cause-and-effect factors in the phenomenon of biennial bearing, often disrupting the balance between reproductive and vegetative processes. The objectives of the present study were to identify the time range during which heavy fruit load reversibly interrupts the reproductive processes of the following year. The linkage between timing of fruit removal, vegetative growth, return bloom, and fruit yield was studied. Complete fruit removal in cv. Coratina until about 120 days after full bloom (August 15) caused an immediate resumption of vegetative growth. The new shoots grew to twice the length of those on trees that underwent later fruit removal. Moreover, a full return bloom, corresponding with high subsequent yields, was obtained by early fruit removal, while poor or no bloom developed on late-defruited or control trees. Thus, the critical time to affect flowering and subsequent fruiting in the following year by fruit thinning occurs in olive trees even weeks after pit hardening—much later than previously suggested. Furthermore, the data indicate that flowering-site limitation, due to insufficient or immature vegetative growth during the On-year, is a primary factor inducing alternate bearing in olive.

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