BACKGROUND: In Citrus, root temperature regulates rind colouration. However, few studies have investigated the range of temperatures and timing which determine rind colour break. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between range of soil temperature (ST) and rind colour development in the precocious ‘Clemenpons’ Clementine mandarin. Reflective white plastic mulch was used to modify root temperature.
RESULTS: Mulching increased reflected light and reduced daily maximum ST and temperature range, major differences being established 70–30 days before harvest. Rind colour-break correlated positively with 20 °C < ST < 23 °C; thus, 20–23 °C appears to be the ST threshold interval for fruit colouration. The sooner the soil reached it, the sooner the fruit changed rind colour. In our experiments, control trees accumulated 565 h at this ST interval before fruit changed colour, whereas in treated trees it occurred 2 weeks earlier. Hence, in treated trees the colour break was advanced by 2 weeks and this increased the percentage of fruit harvested at the first picking date by up to 2.5-fold.
Conclusions: Fruit colour-break does not take place at a certain ST, but after several hours at a ST of 20–23 °C. In our experiments, reducing ST during the 2 months before harvest advances the first picking date in the ‘Clemenpons’ Clementine mandarin. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry