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Crop Production Cycle

Introduction

Orchard and tree management is aimed at creating consistent optimal yields. Natural patterns of growth and reproduction of a tree determine the yield.  This presentation will give an overview of those patterns “physiological stages”: the crop production cycle. The effects of climate on the crop production cycle are discussed with the olive tree as an example. Management options to optimize the crop production cycle are noted.

What is the crop production cycle (CPC)?

The tree growth and fruit production of cropping trees can be divided into several stages: development of tissue, buds, differentiation, flowering, fruit- or nut-set, (pit hardening for pit fruit) ripening and harvest.  These stages form a cycle, which can require two or more years.

For example olive trees develop flowers on the shoots, which grew the previous year.  Thus this year’s crop started last year.  Olive production is a two year or biennial cycle.

The diagram on the next page shows the Production Cycle.  Many factors influence the cycle.  A disruption of the cycle leads to crop failure and biennial bearing (on-off years in cropping).  Understanding the requirements of the different stages in the cycle helps us to positively influence the factors under management’s control.  Some factors can be controlled by man and some factors are controlled by nature.

olive-production-cycle

Description of the Crop Production Cycle and climatic aspects

Induction

The process by which one part of an embryo causes adjacent tissues or parts to change form or shape, as by the diffusion of hormones or other compounds.
In general high temperature and strong light intensity are required for bud growth and floral induction

Initiation

Temperature plays an important part in floral initiation. When summer temperatures are lower than normal the inflorescence develop in autumn, while normally inflorescence develop in summer.
Large amounts of fruit or nuts on the tree tend to reduce initiation. Fruit thinning can be used to manage for even cropping levels between season.

Differentiation

Most temperate crops have a chilling requirement (temperatures should be below a threshold for a minimum time period.  Every crop and sometimes varieties has its own requirements of temperatures and time.

Formation

The stage when the flowers (and floral organs) are formed.  There is a requirement for a minimum temperature in most crops.  Prolonged cold weather during the time when the flower buds are developing rapidly can have detrimental effect on flowering, pollination and fruit set.
Water and nutritional stresses at this time can reduce flower numbers.

Anthesis

The period during which a flower is fully open and functional. It may also refer to the onset of that period.  Anthesis is the time and process of budding and unfolding of blossoms.
Timing of flowering depends on rate of temperature increase and temperature distribution.
Soil moisture tends to play an important role in the flowering processes.

Pollination

Pollination requires a minimum temperature.

For example olives require a minimum temperature of 19 to 21° Celsius. The pollen tube grows through the surface and the flower tissues to the egg cell in the embryo sac in about one week. Pollen tube growth depends on temperature: warm temperature leads to fast growth, while low (or hot) temperatures lead to slow growth.  When the temperature falls below the 20° C range the pollen tube growth slows down and only small amounts of fruits are formed.

Fruit or nut set

Wind protection is crucial at fruit or nut set (high winds reduce set).
Nitrogen application can enhance fruit or nut set. Sufficient soil moisture is required.

Fruit or nut development

For wind pollinated crops there is a tendency for a large amount of flowers.  Pollination of a small percentage of flowers leads to a good crop.
Issues during fruit or nut development can be linked to nutrient stress or water stress.

The following table shows the large amount of flowers and the small percentage of fruit at harvest time for olives.

annales2

Ripening

The tree needs a large part of the sugars produced for ripening of the fruit or nuts.  Cool night temperatures decrease the energy required at night thus more energy is available for ripening of fruit or nuts.

Key aspect is Light Management

Most stages of flower development require light. Canopy management to let light penetrate to the buds and fruit/nuts is an important aspect of orchard management.

Conclusion

Understanding the environmental effects (e.g. light, water, nutrients, diseases) on the crop production cycle specific to the crop you grow will help to formulate effective orchard and tree management actions.

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    Orchard and tree management is aimed at creating consistent optimal yields. Natural patterns...

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