Published in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, Volume 133, Issue 1, January 1, 2008, pages 3-10.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Lauren Garner was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
Despite profuse flowering, ‘Hass’ avocado (Persea americana Mill.) yields are low because of excessive flower and fruit abscission. Whether the dynamics of flower and fruit abscission are influenced by or contribute to alternate bearing, the production of a heavy on-crop followed by a light off-crop that is characteristic of many avocado cultivars, remains unresolved. The objective of this research was to determine whether abscission of reproductive structures from ‘Hass’ avocado trees during specific developmental stages, including flowering, fruit development, and fruit maturity, was influenced by crop status of the current or preceding year. Abscised reproductive structures were collected from commercially bearing trees during two complete crop years. Flower abscission began at about the same time but peaked 1 month later in the off-crop year compared with the on-crop year. Peak abscission rates were lower during the off-crop year than the on-crop year (compare 1836 ± 403 to 5378 ± 856 flowers per day and 50 ± 18 to 280 ± 23 immature fruit per day, respectively). The off-or on-crop status of the tree did not influence the percentage fruit set, average fruit diameter, or biomass of individual fruit that abscised at similar phenological stages. Furthermore, flower and fruit abscission were not influenced by the number of mature fruit from the previous year’s crop. In both years of the research, as immature fruit abscission declined, abscission of the preceding year’s crop increased, indicating that the processes were controlled independently. During the study, neither weather conditions nor tree nutrient status were associated with key abscission events. Taken together, these results provide evidence that the previous year’s yield does not influence flower or fruit abscission and the seasonal abscission of reproductive structures is an independent process that does not contribute to alternate bearing of ‘Hass’ avocado.