'Crimson Seedless' is a table grape cultivar that often fails to develop adequate red color in Mediterranean climates. Application of abscisic acid (S-ABA) may be an aid for improving color, but its potential effects on overall quality and S-ABA concentration of the berry should be also considered. We tested two concentrations (200 and 400 mg/L) and different times of application (from 1 week after veraison up to 9 days before harvest) of a commercial formulation of S-ABA (ProTone®) to verify the effect on harvestable bunches, color, chemical characteristics, metabolic profile, and S-ABA concentration in the berry. It was found that either the application of S-ABA at 400 mg/L one week after veraison or the application of S-ABA at 400 mg/L one week and four weeks after veraison positively affected the berry skin color, shifting the hue (h°) from 20 to a more red-violet hue (h° = 11-12). In general, the application of S-ABA, with the exception of the late treatments, enhanced coloration of the berries and increased the amount of harvestable bunches at the first pick because it promoted the skin-coloring process. S-ABA did not affect berry firmness but reduced the berry detachment force. Nevertheless, the values remained sufficiently high and the general quality of the bunch was not compromised. Ripening parameters (°Brix, pH, titratable acidity) were not affected by S-ABA applications, and even the primary metabolite profile was not influenced by the treatments as ascertained by multivariate statistical analyses [principal component analyses (PCA) and partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA)] applied to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data. The S-ABA concentration in the berry, when treatments were performed around veraison, was within the natural range for grape (10-400 ng/g f.w.), whereas when late treatments were applied (few days before harvest), the concentration was higher (more than 1,000 ng/g f.w.). The best results for yield, quality, and S-ABA concentration in the berry were observed for the treatments performed a few days after veraison at the dose of 400 mg/L. This study gives new information about the positive effects of S-ABA on color without any particular change in the metabolic profile of the berry. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.
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