Background and aims: Fertilization is essential in almond production, and pollination can be limiting in production areas. This study investigated stigma receptivity under defined developmental stages to clarify the relationship between stigma morphology, pollen germination, tube growth and fruit set.
Methods: Light and scanning electron microscopy were employed to examine stigma development at seven stages of flower development ranging from buds that were swollen to flowers in which petals were abscising. Flowers at different stages were hand pollinated and pollen germination and tube growth assessed. Artificial pollinations in the field were conducted to determine the effect of flower age on fruit set.
Key results: Later stages of flower development exhibited greater stigma receptivity, i.e. higher percentages of pollen germination and more extensive tube growth occurred in older (those opened to the flat petal stage or exhibiting petal fall) than younger flowers. Enhanced stigma receptivity was associated with elongation of stigmatic papillae and increased amounts of stigmatic exudate that inundated papillae at later developmental stages. Field pollinations indicated that the stigma was still receptive and nut set was maintained in older flowers.
Conclusions: Stigma receptivity in almond does not become optimal until flowers are past the fully open stage. The stigma is still receptive and fruit set is maintained in flowers even at the stage when petals are abscising. Strategies to enhance pollination and crop yield, including the timing and placement of honey bees, should consider the effectiveness of developmentally advanced flowers.