Source strength (assimilate supply) and sink strength (assimilate demand) of the plant were varied in different ways to investigate to what extent flower/fruit abortion in sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) is determined by the availability of assimilates. Source strength was varied by changing the light level, plant density, and leaf pruning. Sink strength was varied by changing the temperature and the number and position of earlier formed fruits. Shading as well as heating for short periods showed that flowers/fruits were the most susceptible to abortion during the first week after anthesis. The different experiments where source strength was varied all showed that when source strength decreased, the rate of abortion increased linearly, whether source strength was decreased by shading, high plant density, or leaf pruning. That flower and fruit abortion not only depends on the source strength but also on the sink strength of competing organs is shown by varying the number or the position of earlier formed fruits. With the same source strength, the rate of abortion showed a close relationship with the growth rate of the earlier formed competing fruits, suggesting that the induction of abortion by earlier formed fruits is due to their sink strength. Most of the variation in abortion could be related to differences in vegetative growth rate, the latter being an indicator of the source-sink ratio. However, with the same vegetative growth rate, the rate of abortion was lower for the leaf pruning treatments where no competing fruits were retained than for the fruit load treatments. This indicates that although most of the variation in abortion can be related to the source and sink strength of the plant, some effects of competing fruits can only be explained by a combination of competition and dominance
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