DOI: 10.3390/plants12234035 ISSN: 2223-7747

Rootstock and Crop Load Effects on ‘Honeycrisp’ Photosynthetic Performance and Carbohydrate Accumulation

Claudia Baldassi, Anna Berim, Stefan Roeder, Pasquale Losciale, Sara Serra, David R. Gang, Stefano Musacchi
  • Plant Science
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Rootstock selection and crop load adjustment are key practices in apple orchard management; nevertheless, the effects of rootstocks and crop load levels on important physiological processes of the scions, such as photosynthetic performance and carbohydrate accumulation, are still unclear. To investigate the impact of different rootstocks and crop load levels on scion photosynthesis and carbohydrate buildup, in 2020, ‘Honeycrisp’ trees grafted on rootstocks ‘G.41’, ‘G.935’, and ‘M.9-T337’ were thinned to low and high crop load levels, and photosynthetic performance and carbohydrate accumulation in leaves and fruit were evaluated. Leaves from ‘G.935’ showed the highest net photosynthesis and electron use efficiency of photosynthesis and the lowest activity for non-net carboxylative processes, all together indicative of enhanced photosynthetic performance. High crop load determined an increase in gas exchange, suggesting a positive feedback of high fruit competition on carbon assimilation. While rootstock ‘M.9-T337’ showed a higher accumulation of starch in leaves, no pattern regarding the composition of leaf-soluble sugars among rootstocks could be identified. Conversely, by the end of the harvest season, leaves from low-cropping trees had higher fructose, glucose, and sorbitol than those from high-cropping trees, but differences in starch content were not significant. Fructose and sorbitol concentrations were affected by rootstock and crop load, respectively. Overall, this study showed that high cropping enhanced photosynthesis in ‘Honeycrisp’ apple and determined lower accumulation of some soluble carbohydrates (fructose, glucose, sorbitol) in leaves. This study also provided insights into how rootstocks affect photosynthetic performance of ‘Honeycrisp’, highlighting ‘G.935’ as the rootstock conferring the highest photosynthetic capacity under the present experimental conditions.

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