New Blush® PGR Helps Growers Bring Out the Red in Bi-color Apples

If you’re over the age of 50, you probably remember the famous Chiffon margarine
commercial from the 1970s that featured the iconic line “It’s not nice to fool Mother
Nature.” But that’s precisely what U.S. apple growers are planning to do this summer
with the help of new Blush® plant growth regulator from Fine Americas, Inc.

Featuring the active ingredient prohydrojasmon (PDJ), Blush® promotes red
coloration in Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Pink Lady and other popular bi-color
apple varieties, even under less-than-ideal climatic conditions.

“We’re very excited about the introduction of Blush®,” noted Greg Johnson, president
of Fine Americas. “Based on the data we’ve received from university researchers,
private consultants and growers in several key apple-producing states, Blush® has
done an excellent job of enhancing fruit color compared to the standard treatment and
untreated fruit. It truly is a one-of-a-kind product for improving the coloration and
marketability of bi-color apple varieties.”

Prohydrojasmon is a synthetically produced jasmonate, one of a new group of plant
hormones with several beneficial physiological properties. In addition to fruit de-greening,
PDJ aids in fruit color development by enhancing accumulation of anthocyanin.
Anthocyanins are red pigments that belong to a class of molecules called flavonoids.
Along with stimulating fruit coloration, anthocyanins act as powerful antioxidants.

Excellent results in Eastern production areas

Jeff Alicandro of agr.assistance in North Rose, NY has worked with Blush® for the
past five years. During that time span, he’s seen the product perform under a variety of
growing conditions.

“We’ve seen some good results with Blush®, especially in Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp,
Braeburn and Jonagold,” Alicandro noted. “Of course, fruit coloring is a very
complicated process, and Blush® seems to perform somewhat better under cooler

Alicandro added that Blush® has an excellent “fit” where growers use ReTain plant
growth regulator to manage fruit maturation and ripening. “ReTain can put a drag on
fruit coloration, so Blush® is an effective way to counter that effect and produce a
higher percentage of redder, more marketable apples.”

Photos of untreated Gala apples (left) and the same variety treated with Blush® (right) demonstrate the
performance of Blush in New York State orchard trials.

Another New York researcher who has tested Blush® since 2009 is W.H. “Butch”
Palmer of Reality Research in Wayne County. “We’ve conducted trials with Blush® on
a number of varieties, including Gala, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, SnapDragon, RubyFrost,
Sweet Tango and others,” Palmer noted. “In one trial where we used a split application
of Blush® on Galas, 22% of the apples graded out at 100% color compared to only
7.8% for the untreated check.”

Palmer recommends using a spreader-sticker with Blush® to improve product
performance. “Plus, it’s imperative that growers apply Blush® in a volume of 100
gallons of water per acre to ensure proper coverage of the fruit.”

Similar outcomes in the Great Lakes region

In his dual role as district horticultural marketing agent for Michigan State University
and a commercial apple grower, Phillip Schwallier has seen Blush® perform over the
course of two growing seasons. “We conducted orchard trials with Blush® in 2011 and
again in 2013,” he stated. “Of course, the freeze of 2012 prevented us from testing it
that year, but we’ve seen it add red coloration to Honeycrisp, Gala and Jonagold. It
seems like application timing and rates can have an impact on overall performance, but
our experience shows there’s no difference in maturity or storage life between treated
and untreated fruit.”

Chandra Maleckas-Bunker, president of Ridge Quest, Inc. in Kent City, MI, echoed
Schwallier’s comments. “Blush® always seems to improve fruit color,” she reported.
“Certain varieties show a significant improvement in fruit coloration, with Honeycrisp
showing a three to six percent improvement and Paula Red improving by six percent or
more. Where we haven’t seen a difference between treated and untreated fruit is in the
average size, brix, starch levels and fruit firmness.”

Proven in the Pacific Northwest

Even though Washington State usually boasts ideal climatic conditions for fruit
coloration, with warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights, Blush® has helped growers in
that state improve color on several key bi-color varieties.

Jeff Leonardini of Washington Fruit & Produce Company in Yakima has conducted
orchard trials with Blush® over the past four years. “We’ve had good results every year
except last year, when we had an extremely hot September,” he recalled. “Fuji and
Red Delicious seem to respond best, but we’ve seen color improvement in Braeburn,
Gala, Honeycrisp and Pink Lady as well.”

Leonardini is a big believer in split applications of Blush®. “We’ve seen where split
applications approximately two weeks apart give us a better chance of getting a good
response with Blush®. Primarily, it increases the odds of at least one application
coming at a time when climatic conditions are best-suited for Blush®.”

Harvest efficiency: Another key benefit

While the main purpose of Blush® is to improve fruit coloration in bi-color apple
varieties, it can also have a significant impact on harvest efficiency. “I believe Blush®
will help us manage harvest better in future years by increasing the percentage of
packable fruit in the first pick,” stated Alicandro. “That should help reduce labor costs
and enable growers to capitalize on the premiums paid for early-season fruit.”

The same market dynamics apply in Washington State, according to Leonardini. “If
we can increase our color with Blush® and harvest more premium-quality apples
earlier, that generally helps with our early-season pricing.”

So, while it may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, apple growers from coast to
coast are discovering it sure is profitable with the help of new Blush® plant growth
regulator from Fine Americas.