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Keywords:

  • Almond;
  • foliage;
  • fruit tree;
  • leaf loss;
  • plant resource limitation;
  • pollination–resource interactions;
  • Prunus dulcis

Abstract

Pollination is critical to fruit production, but the interactions of pollination with plant resources on a plant's reproductive and vegetative features are largely overlooked. We examined the influences of pollination, irrigation and fertilisation on the performance of almond, Prunus dulcis, in northern California. We used a full-factorial design to test for the effects of pollination limitation on fruit production and foliage variables of whole trees experiencing four resource treatments: (i) normal water and nutrients, (ii) reduced water, (iii) no nutrients, and (iv) reduced water and no nutrients. In each of these combinations, we applied three pollination treatments: hand-cross pollination, open-pollination and pollinator exclusion. Pollination strongly affected yield even under reduced water and no nutrient applications. Hand-cross pollination resulted in over 50% fruit set with small kernels, while open-pollinated flowers showed over 30% fruit set with moderate-sized kernels. Pollinator-excluded flowers had a maximum fruit set of 5%, with big and heavy kernels. Reduced water interacted with the open- and hand-cross pollination treatments, reducing yield more than in the pollinator exclusion treatment. The number of kernels negatively influenced the number of leaves, and reduced water and no nutrient applications interacted with the pollination treatments. Overall, our results indicate that the influences of pollination on fruit tree yield interact with the plant availability of nutrients and water and that excess pollination can reduce fruit quality and the production of leaves for photosynthesis. Such information is critical to understand how pollination influences fruit tree performance.