The rachis, the structural framework of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) inflorescence (and subsequent bunch), consists of a main axis and one or more orders of lateral branches with the flower-bearing pedicels at their fine tips. The rachis is crucial both for support, and transport from the shoot. Earlier suggestions that the flowers per se affect normal rachis development are investigated further in this study. Different percentages (0, 25, 50, 75 or 100) of flowers were removed manually one week before anthesis on field-grown vines. Treatment effects on subsequent rachis development (curvature, vitality, anatomy, starch deposit) were assessed. Sections, both fixed and embedded, and fresh hand-cut were observed by fluorescence and bright-field optics after appropriate staining. Emphasis was on measurement of changes in cross-sectional area of secondary xylem and phloem, and on maturation of fibres and periderm. Specific defects in rachis development were dependent on the percent and location of flower removal one week prior to anthesis. The rachises curved inwards where most of the flowers were removed. When fully de-flowered, they became progressively necrotic from the laterals back to the primary axes and from the distal to the proximal end of those axes, with a concurrent disorganisation of their anatomy. A few remaining groups of flowers prevented desiccation and abscission of the rachis axes proximal to the group, but not distally. Flower removal (50%) reduced rachis elongation, while 75% removal reduced xylem and phloem area and delayed phloem fibre and periderm development. 75% flower removal did not affect starch present in the rachis during berry development. Developing flowers affect the growth and vitality of the rachis and the development of its vascular and support structures. The extent of these effects depends on the cultivar and the number and position of flowers remaining after some are removed one week before anthesis.
- Bunchstem, cluster, flower removal, grapevine