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Leaf Potential Productivity at Different Canopy Levels in Densely-planted and Intermediately-thinned Apple Orchards

SUN, Ying, ZHANG, Yin, JIANG, Yuanmao, SONG, Kai, GAO, Juhong, ZHANG, Dingyou, ZHANG, Jixiang
Horticultural plant journal 2016 v.2 no.4 pp. 181-187
Malus domestica, apples, canopy, carboxylation, crop production, electron transfer, fruit quality, gas exchange, leaf area, leaf development, leaves, models, nitrogen content, orchards, photosynthesis, photosynthetically active radiation, planting density, rootstocks, solar radiation, spatial distribution, thinning (plants), trees, China
Most apple orchards in the apple production districts in China were densely planted with vigorous rootstocks during the 1980s. These orchards have suffered micro-environmental deterioration and loss of fruit quality because of the closed canopy. Modification of the densely-planted orchards is a priority in current apple production. Intermediate thinning is a basic technique used to transform densely-planted apple orchards in China. Our goal was to provide theoretical basis for studying the effect of thinning on the efficiency of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), fruit quality, and yield. We measured leaf area, solar radiation, and leaf air exchange at different tree canopy levels and by fitting relevant photosynthetic models, vertical distribution characteristics of leaf photosynthetic potentials and PAR were analyzed in various levels within canopies in densely-planted and intermediately-thinned orchards. Intermediate thinning significantly improved the radiant environment inside the canopies. PAR distribution within the canopies in the intermediately-thinned orchard was better distributed than in the densely-planted orchards. The invalid space under 30.0% of relative photosynthetically active radiation (PARr) was nearly zero in the intermediately-thinned orchard; but minimum PARr was 17.0% and the space under 0.30 of the relative height of the canopy was invalid for photosynthesis in the densely-planted orchard. The leaf photosynthetic efficiency in the intermediately-thinned orchard was improved. Photosynthetic rates (Pn) at the middle and bottom levels of the canopy, respectively, were increased by 7.80% and 10.20% in the intermediately-thinned orchard. Leaf development, which influences photosynthetic potential, was closely related to the surrounding micro-environment, especially light. Leaf photosynthetic potentials were correlated with leaf nitrogen content (Nl) and specific leaf weight (Ml) at various levels of canopies. Compared with the densely-planted orchard, the photosynthetic capacity parameters, such as maximum carboxylation rate (CEmax) and maximum electron transfer rate (Jmax), significantly increased in the intermediately-thinned orchard. Leaf photosynthetic potentials mainly depended on Nl and Nl was closely related to PARr. Leaf photosynthetic potentials and PARr can be assessed using spatial distribution patterns of relative leaf nitrogen content (Nlr).