Timing Retain Sprays – Facts for Fancy Fruit

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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