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Aims: This study assessed the initial effect of experimental pruning (EP) or grower’s pruning (GP) of cactus pear fruiting cladodes on fruit yield (FY), fruit size distribution (FSD), and fruit quality (FQ) at harvest and after storage.
Study Design: Treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design with eight or ten replicates, with a single plant as replicate, for EP or GP, respectively.
Place and Duration of Study: The experiment was set up in a drip-irrigated commercial orchard of ‘Roja Lisa’ cactus pear [O. ficus-indica (L.) Mill.] plants located at Santa Fe, Jerez, Zacatecas, México, from February to August 2006.
Methodology: The EP considered two agronomic practices: 1) exposing the center of each plant while eliminating unproductive cladodes and those shading other cladodes and 2) concentrating fruiting cladodes in the outer part of the plants. The GP randomly eliminated some cladodes from the central part and around the plants only. Treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design with eight or ten replicates, with a single plant as replicate, for EP or GP, respectively. The response variables were: FY, FSD, and FQ at harvest and after storage. The FQ attributes were: mean fruit mass (MFM), flesh firmness (FF), total soluble solids concentration, pulp and peel mass, dry matter concentration, and fruit water loss (FWL) during storage.
Results: EP increased MFM by 42% over GP and produced 15% more marketable fruit (fruit equatorial diameter from 5.0 to 7.0 cm), but FY was reduced by 39%. The FF was higher in EP fruit than GP fruit after storage. The other FQ attributes were similar in both pruning treatments, both at harvest and after three weeks at room temperature. The FWL was also similar under both pruning systems. More targeted pruning has the potential to increase the productivity of cactus pear orchards.
Conclusion: Experimental pruning increased fruit size and the percentage of commercial fruit, but reduced both overall and commercial fruit yields. After three-week storage at room temperature, flesh firmness remained greater in EP fruit. Fruit water loss was not influenced by pruning treatments during the storage.
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