Control Of Preharvest Drop with NAA – Facts for Fancy Fruit

Control Of Preharvest Drop with NAA

Preharvest drop refers to the process where fruit fall from the tree prior to harvest. Not all apple varieties are affected, but with some, such as McIntosh and Pristine, pre-harvest drop can be extreme. Several growth regulator materials are available to growers to help reduce pre-harvest drop. These materials are often referred to as “stop-drop” or “sticker” sprays. The traditional material used to help prevent pre-harvest drop on apples is NAA (Fruitone N), a synthetic auxin. Other synthetic auxins you may have heard of include 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T.  Of course you also know Fruitone N as a chemical thinner.  Early in the season NAA knocks fruit off the tree and later towards harvest it sticks them on.  This highlights the importance of timing when using plant growth regulators.

Another newer stop drop material is ReTain (see articles by Schupp and Schwallier in this issue). Although both NAA and ReTain can reduce preharvest drop, they do this in different ways. ReTain delays apple maturity whereas NAA does not delay maturity (and may even hasten it) but just reduces the fruit dropping.  As Dr Schupp highlights in his article, ReTain must be applied well ahead of the anticipated harvest date so a considerable amount of planning is required.  NAA on the other hand needs to be applied just before apples start dropping, so in this regard can be viewed as a rescue treatment.

Once NAA is applied it takes about 3 days for the activity to kick in. After that you can expect about 7 days of drop control.  Rates of 10-20 ppm are usually effective, but knowing exactly when to apply it can be tricky.  If the application is made too soon, the effect may wear off before harvest is complete.  If the NAA is applied too late, then too many apples will have dropped on the ground before the NAA starts having an effect.  Wait until you start to see a few apples drop, and perhaps assist this by bumping a few branches and seeing if any apples drop.  Then it’s time to apply the NAA.  Longer stop-drop control can be obtained with a split application, 10 ppm applied 7-14 days apart.  NAA works best when applied in slow drying conditions and when temperatures are warm (70-75F). Bearing this in mind, many growers apply their stop drop sprays early in the morning when there may be some dew on the trees and when temperatures are rising.  Be aware that high rates of NAA (20 ppm) can advance fruit maturity.

NAA can be tank mixed and is compatible with a wide range of products. Always conduct a small test before mixing NAA with materials you haven’t tried previously.  Apply in enough water to ensure good coverage.

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