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Abstract

Biophysical and hormonal changes linked to postharvest needle abscission in balsam fir.

Abstract

Efforts are being made to determine significant biophysical and physiological events related to postharvest needle abscission. It is known that initial postharvest average water consumption is 0.2 mL g-1 day-1 (based on dry shoot tissue), but gradually decreases by up to 75%. It is hypothesized that some degree of water deficit is manifested through changes in several biophysical and hormonal factors. Parameters including needle loss, water use, relative water content, electrical capacitance, membrane injury, and xylem pressure potential were measured once every 5 days on balsam fir branches collected from a clonal orchard. In addition, needles were sampled at the beginning of the experiment and during peak needle abscission which were then subjected to endogenous hormonal analysis. Peak needle abscission occurred within 24 days. During this time water use decreased by 70%, relative water content decreased by 23%, capacitance decreased by 64%, membrane injury increased by 100%, needle break strength decreased by 50%, and xylem pressure potential decreased fourfold. Abscisic acid increased by 32-fold and trans-zeatin riboside increased by fourfold during peak abscission compared to fresh branches. Other cytokinins, such as cis-zeatin riboside, isopentenyl adenosine, trans-zeatin-O-glucoside, and dihydrozeatin riboside all doubled during abscission. Finally, there was a 95% decrease in indole-3-acetic acid. Observed changes in all biophysical parameters, as well as abscisic acid, could be indicative of a possible postharvest water stress or dehydration. It is possible that dehydration-induced changes in biophysical and hormonal factors trigger and/or modulate postharvest needle abscission.