Control Of Preharvest Drop with NAA – Facts for Fancy Fruit

Control Of Preharvest Drop with NAA

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. (Hirst)

 Timing Retain Sprays: ReTain (AVG) is a plant growth regulator that blocks the production of ethylene. When ReTain is applied to apple, several ripening processes are slowed, including preharvest drop, fruit flesh softening, starch disappearance, and red color formation.

In order for ReTain to be effective it must be applied well in advance of the climacteric rise in ethylene production that signals the onset of fruit maturity. If applied too early the effects may wear off prematurely. If applied too late, a significant portion of the crop may not be responsive to AVG, having already begun to produce autocatalytic ethylene. A second reason for avoiding late applications of ReTain is the 21 day preharvest interval (PHI), which, combined with a late spray date could result in an undesirable delay in harvest.

The label recommends applying ReTain four weeks before anticipated harvest (WBH). This has sometimes caused confusion, as the grower is timing the spray relative to some future, unknown date. A more scientific basis for timing would be to state that ReTain should be applied four weeks before the natural climacteric rise in fruit ethylene, but this is still a future event with an element of uncertainty. The good news is that there is a fairly wide window when ReTain can be applied with optimal results, and a fairly easy way to determine when to apply it.

The best application window for ReTain is about 10 days wide and centered on the 4 WBH date. For early season varieties, such as Gala and McIntosh, start by estimating when you would normally expect to begin harvesting the variety if no ReTain or ethephon (Ethrel, Ethephon II) were used. Now take into consideration the season.  Adjust the anticipated harvest date according to how early or late you estimate the season is, then count back four weeks on the calendar. Now mark the calendar from that date through the next seven days. This is your application window for that early season variety.

Watch for good spray conditions with at least six hours drying time within that week and apply the material at the first opportunity. Congratulations! Your ReTain is on at the right time.

Now mark your calendar for 21 days after the spray was applied. This is the PHI, as required by the label. You can’t legally harvest before this date.

Repeat the same thought process for later varieties, but keep in mind that later varieties are usually less affected by seasonal variation in maturity than stone fruits or early apple varieties. It is usually unnecessary to account for seasonal variation in fruit maturity for Empire and later varieties. (Dr. Jim Schupp, The Fruit Times, Penn. State University)



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