Separately, grafting and the use of plastic mulch can increase yield, quality, and early harvest of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), especially when plants are under biotic and/or abiotic stress. A 2-year field study was conducted to evaluate the combination of four different rootstocks and two types of plastic mulch (black and clear) on date of watermelon first flowering, fruit ripening, yield, and fruit quality when plants were exposed to Verticillium dahliae. Seedless watermelon cv. Secretariat was grafted onto rootstocks Lagenaria siceraria cv. Pelop, Benincasa hispida cv. Round, and two interspecific hybrid squash rootstocks Cucurbita maxima × C. moschata cvs. Super Shintosa and Tetsukabuto, with nongrafted ‘Secretariat’ as the control. Fruit were harvested 0, 7, and 14 days after both the leaflet and tendril attached to the fruit pedicel were completely dry (fruit considered to be physiologically mature). The area under the disease progress curve (AUDPC) values for verticillium wilt were not different for mulch type in either year, although the overall AUDPC value was greatly reduced in the four grafted treatments (227) compared with nongrafted (743). There was no difference in days to male or female flowering due to mulch type or year, and rootstock did not affect first flowering of male flowers. Female flowering was 14 and 11 days later in 2018 and 2019, respectively, for ‘Secretariat’ grafted onto bottle gourd ‘Round’ compared with ‘Secretariat’ grafted onto ‘Tetsukabuto’. Female flowering of ‘Secretariat’ on ‘Round’ was also 7 days later compared with nongrafted ‘Secretariat’ both years. However, days to first harvest was not different with mulch or rootstock and was 92 days after transplanting (DAT) in 2018 and 114 DAT in 2019. There was no difference in yield (fruit number and weight) due to year, harvest date, or mulch, but there was a difference due to grafting. ‘Secretariat’ grafted onto ‘Super Shintosa’ had the greatest total number and weight of fruit per plant (3.7 and 14.8 kg, respectively), and nongrafted ‘Secretariat’ had the lowest (0.7 and 3.2 kg, respectively). Fruit quality attributes hollow heart formation (rating 3.2/5 on average), hard seed count (6 on average), total soluble solids (11% on average), and lycopene content were not different among mulch type, rootstock treatment, or harvest date; however, lycopene content did differ due to year (52.44 and 32.51 µg·g−1 in 2018 and 2019, respectively). Flesh firmness was highest for watermelon grafted onto ‘Super Shintosa’ rootstock (6.7 N) and lowest for nongrafted watermelon (4.3 N). Overall, rootstocks reduced verticillium wilt severity and increased fruit yield whereas mulch had no effects, and 5 V. dahliae colony forming units (cfu)/g of soil may be the minimum level for impact on watermelon fruit yield.
Pinki Devi, Penelope Perkins-Veazie, and Carol A. Miles
Travis Robert Alexander, Carolyn F. Ross, Emily A. Walsh, and Carol A. Miles
Machine harvest of ‘Brown Snout’ specialty cider apple (Malus ×domestica) has been shown to provide yield and juice quality characteristics similar to that of hand harvest. In this 2-year study, the sensory perception (color, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, taste, and aftertaste) of ciders produced from machine-harvested and hand-harvested fruit that were ambient stored (56 °F) 0–4 weeks postharvest were compared using a trained panel and electronic tongue (e-tongue). For nearly all sensory attributes evaluated, the trained panelists scored the 2014 machine-harvested samples higher than the 2014 hand-harvested samples. Some of the key sensory differences included a darker color, a more astringent and heated mouthfeel, and a more sour taste of the machine-harvested samples than the hand-harvested samples. Trained panelists perceived no differences due to the harvest method among the 2015 samples for any of the sensory attributes evaluated. The e-tongue demonstrated good discrimination (index value = 95) of 2014 samples, but poor discrimination (index value = −0.5) of 2015 samples, mirroring the year-to-year variation experienced by the trained panelists. Overall, the e-tongue demonstrated a response to metallic and sour that was more associated with the machine-harvested samples and a response to sweet and umami that was more associated with the hand-harvested samples. These results demonstrate that cider made from machine-harvested fruit can have a different sensory profile than cider made from hand-harvested fruit. A consumer tasting panel should be conducted next to provide an indication of market response to the differing sensory profiles, qualifying the impact of harvest method. Results also indicate that ambient storage (56 °F) of fruit up to 4 weeks may not impact cider sensory attributes; however, cider apple growers should avoid ambient storage of machine-harvested fruit given the significant yield losses demonstrated in previous studies. Variation in cider quality due to year of harvest was most likely a result of differences in the hand-harvest technique between the 2 years, specifically more fruit bruising in 2014 than in 2015, demonstrating the importance of harvesting fully mature fruit with a standard protocol so as to supply a consistent raw material to cider producers. The e-tongue produced variable results compared with trained panelists and more development is needed before it can be incorporated into cider sensory evaluation protocol.
Haly L. Neely, Richard T. Koenig, Carol A. Miles, Teresa C. Koenig, and Meriam G. Karlsson
Tissue nitrate (NO3) concentration (TNC) in leafy greens generally decreases with increasing light intensity and photoperiod in controlled environment studies. Harvesting late in the day has been recommended as a way to produce leafy greens with lower TNC, although data from field research do not support this recommendation. This study investigated the effect of time of day of harvest on TNC in lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) grown in the field during the summer at Pullman, WA (lat. 46° N) and Fairbanks, AK (lat. 64° N). Whole plants were sampled every 2 h on three separate, 24-h harvest dates at each latitude. Plants were dried, ground, and analyzed for NO3-N. At the high-latitude location, TNC decreased linearly during the day (1000 to 2300 hr) on all three dates for spinach and one for lettuce. At the low-latitude location, TNC decreased linearly during the day (1000 to 1900 hr) on one date and increased linearly during the night (2000 to 0400 hr) on two dates for lettuce. The TNC (average 287 to 607 mg NO3-N/kg fresh weight for lettuce and 141 to 189 mg NO3-N/kg fresh weight for spinach) and magnitude of diurnal fluctuation (generally less than 25%) should not pose a human health risk regardless of when plants are harvested.
Jeremy S. Cowan, Arnold M. Saxton, Hang Liu, Karen K. Leonas, Debra Inglis, and Carol A. Miles
The functionality of biodegradable mulch can be evaluated in agricultural field settings by visually assessing mulch intactness over time (a measure of deterioration), but it is unclear if mulch deterioration is indicative of mulch degradation as measured by mechanical properties (like breaking force and elongation). This 3-year study (2010–12) examined mulch percent visual deterioration (PVD) during the summer growing season in open-field and high tunnel production systems, and compared these to mulch mechanical properties at mulch installation (12–30 May), midseason (22 July–9 Aug.), and season end (6–25 Oct.), to determine if the field-based measures reliably predict degradation as revealed by changes in mulch mechanical properties. Four different types of biodegradable mulches [two plastic film mulches marketed as biodegradable (BioAgri and BioTelo); one fully biodegradable paper mulch (WeedGuardPlus); and, one experimental spunbonded plastic mulch designed to biodegrade (SBPLA)] were evaluated against a standard nonbiodegradable polyethylene (PE) mulch where tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L. cv. Celebrity) was planted as the model crop. Each year for the 3 years, PVD increased earlier for WeedGuardPlus than the other mulches in both the high tunnel and open field, and WeedGuardPlus had the greatest PVD in both high tunnels and the open field (6% and 48%, respectively). Mechanical strength of WeedGuardPlus also declined by the end of the season both in the high tunnel (up to 46% reduction) and in the open field (up to 81% reduction). PVD of BioAgri and BioTelo reached a maximum of 3% in the high tunnel and 28% in the open field by the end of the season. Mechanical strength of BioAgri and BioTelo did not change over the course of the season in either the open field or high tunnel, even though the ability of these mulches to elongate or stretch declined 89% in the open field and 82% in the high tunnel. SBPLA and PE mulches did not show a change in PVD or mechanical properties in either the high tunnel or the open field. Overall, PVD was three to six times greater by midseason in the open field than in the high tunnels. Although there were significant relationships between visual assessments and various mechanical properties for each mulch except SBPLA, the relationships differed for each mulch when evaluated separately and had coefficients of determination (R 2) below 30%. Furthermore, PVD overestimated mechanical deterioration of BioAgri and BioTelo. Results of this study indicate that mulch visual assessments may reflect general trends in changes in certain mechanical properties of the mulch; however, visual assessment and mechanical properties provide different information on deterioration. Each should be used as needed, but not as a substitute for each other.
Shuresh Ghimire, Arnold M. Saxton, Annette L. Wszelaki, Jenny C. Moore, and Carol A. Miles
Biodegradable mulches (BDMs) provide a unique advantage to growers in that they can be tilled into the soil after use, eliminating disposal costs that include time, labor, and equipment needs. Biodegradation of BDMs in the soil can be assessed by the presence of visible mulch fragments; although this is not a direct measure of biodegradation, it provides an initial estimation of mulch biodegradation. We carried out three field experiments to develop a protocol for quantifying BDM fragments in the soil after soil incorporation of mulch. Expt. 1 was done at Mount Vernon, WA, and Knoxville, TN, using five BDMs in four replications, including a polyethylene (PE) mulch reference treatment (three replications and at Mount Vernon only), and a ʽCinnamon Girl’ pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) test crop. At the end of the growing season, mulches were tilled into the soil to a depth of 6 inches and within 16 days, five soil samples were collected with a golf hole cutter (4 inches diameter and 6 inches deep). Fifty-nine percent of the PE mulch fragments were recovered from the reference treatment. Among the remaining treatments, there was a high plot-to-plot variation as to the percent of the BDM recovered (3% to 95% at Mount Vernon, 2% to 88% at Knoxville). To exclude the possibility of mulch degradation impacting mulch recovery, in Expts. 2 and 3 (at Mount Vernon only), one BDM was laid, then tilled into the soil and sampled using the same sampling core as in Expt. 1, but all in 1 day. In Expt. 2, 15 soil samples were collected per plot, which recovered 70% of the mulch, and in Expt. 3, the entire plot was sampled by collecting 128 soil samples per plot, which recovered 62% of the mulch. In summary, sampling with a relatively large core recovered less than 70% of tilled-in mulch, there was high variability between plots within each treatment because of uneven distribution of the mulch fragments in the plot, and even 50 samples per plot did not provide an accurate estimate of the amount of mulch remaining in the field. Thus, soil sampling with a large core was ineffective, and new sampling methods are needed to assess the amount of BDM remaining in the field after soil incorporation.
Mercy Olmstead, Timothy W. Miller, Callie S. Bolton, and Carol A. Miles
Consumer demand for organic and sustainably produced products has increased the interest in organic wine grape (Vitis vinifera) production. However, organic production can be challenging, and weed management is a critical issue during the establishment of an organic vineyard. In 2009, the effectiveness of five cover crop treatments and cultivation regimes was evaluated for two years for weed control in a newly established organic vineyard of ‘Pinot noir précoce’ and ‘Madeleine angevine’ grape cultivars in northwestern Washington State. Alleyway management treatments were cultivation in alleyways with hand weeding in the vine row (control), grass cover crop which included perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne ssp. perenne) and red fescue (Festuca rubra ssp. arenaria) seeded in the alleyway and in-row tillage with a specialty offset-type cultivator, winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) cover crop with in-row string-trimming, austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum ssp. sativum var. arvense) cover crop with in-row string-trimming, and winter wheat–austrian winter pea cover crop mix with in-row string-trimming. In 2009, weed dry biomass was lowest in the alleyway of the control (0.8 g·m−2) and offset cultivator treatments (6.3 g·m−2) on 3 Aug. and tended to be lowest in the alleyway of the control (4.8 g·m−2) and offset cultivator treatments (16.0 g·m−2) on 27 Sept. In the second year of establishment (2010), winter wheat and austrian winter pea were eliminated from the plots by mid-July, and white clover (Trifolium repens) and perennial ryegrass were the dominant weed species and accounted for a majority of the total weeds. On average over the two-year period, the control treatment required the most time for alleyway management (92 h·ha−1) followed by the offset cultivator treatment (64 h·ha−1), while the winter wheat, austrian winter pea, and winter wheat–austrian winter pea mixture required 32 to 42 h·ha−1. ‘Madeline angevine’ produced more shoot growth than ‘Pinot noir précoce’ in Sept. 2010 (42.3 and 25.9 cm respectively), and shoot growth of both cultivars in the control treatment was significantly longer (125.0 cm) than under any other treatment (55.4 to 93.0 cm), illustrating the importance of weed control during vineyard establishment. In this study, the most effective weed management regime, although also the most time consuming, included a vegetative-free zone around the vines (e.g., in-row) maintained by hand weeding and a cultivated alleyway.
Whitney J. Garton, Mark Mazzola, Travis R. Alexander, and Carol A. Miles
Anthracnose canker, caused by Neofabraea malicorticis, threatens the sustainability of cider apple (Malus ×domestica) production in the maritime climate of western Washington. In the short-term, the disease reduces overall orchard productivity and in the long-term it reduces an orchard’s economic life span. The disease is difficult to manage using cultural practices, and information on fungicide efficacy is limited and contradictory. To address this situation, a 2-year study was conducted to evaluate efficacy of zinc (4.49 lb/acre), basic copper sulfate (2.49 lb/acre), captan (2.94 lb/acre), thiophanate-methyl (0.69 lb/acre), pyraclostrobin plus boscalid (0.38 lb/acre), and combinations of these fungicides to manage anthracnose canker infection in young cider apple trees cultivated in a maritime climate. Trees used in the first year of the study (2016) were found to be infected by anthracnose canker on receipt, so the first year was a measure of disease control and the second year (2017) was a measure of disease prevention. In 2016, when fungicide treatments were applied every 3 weeks from March through October, none of the treatments evaluated inhibited the development of new infections or the expansion of existing cankers (77% increase in canker size on average for all treatments). In 2017, when fungicide treatments were applied every 3 weeks from February through April, two to three new cankers were observed 3 weeks after final treatment application for all treatments. Results from this study demonstrate that the current fungicides recommended for control of anthracnose canker are not reliably effective in the orchard environment of northwest Washington. Future studies should assess the fungicides evaluated in this study applied in rotation with additional systemic fungicides.
Aidan Kendall, Carol A. Miles, Travis R. Alexander, Edward Scheenstra, and Gabriel T. LaHue
Irrigation water productivity is a priority for sustainable orchard management as water resources become more limiting. This study evaluated reduced irrigation (RI) as a management strategy for cider apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) production in 2019 and 2020 in northwestern Washington, which has a Mediterranean climate and averages 14.1 cm of precipitation from June to September. RI was evaluated on three cider apple cultivars, Dabinett, Porter’s Perfection, and Golden Russet, in their third and fourth leaf. Stem water potential (stem ψ) was measured weekly throughout the growing season to monitor water stress and implement the RI treatment: irrigation would be applied when stem ψ values dropped below −1.5 MPa, a threshold indicative of moderate water stress in apples. Soil water potential was monitored throughout the season, vegetative growth was assessed by measuring shoot length and non-destructive imaging of the plant canopy using lateral photography, and yield, fruit quality, and juice quality were measured at harvest. Moderate water stress as indicated by stem ψ did not occur either year, thus irrigation was never applied to the RI treatment plots. There was a negative relationship between average stem ψ and both yield and air temperature (P < 0.0001 for each); as yield increased by 5.9 kg per tree or temperature increased by 3.3 °C, stem ψ decreased by 0.1 MPa. The juice quality attributes of the three cultivars in this study were similar to their historic measures at this site and there were no differences due to irrigation treatment, likely because trees did not reach the threshold to induce physiological stress. Both years, trees in the RI treatment did not differ from the control treatment in vegetative growth, fruit yield, juice yield, or any juice quality attribute, but weight per fruit decreased by 7 g, and fruit firmness (measured only in 2020) increased by 2 N. Results from this study indicate that fruit yield and quality in an establishing orchard can be maintained when irrigation is reduced relative to crop water requirements that are estimated from a calculated water balance or relative to conventional grower practices for this region. This finding highlights the benefits of using plant water status to schedule irrigation.
Kristy Borrelli, Richard T. Koenig, Brad M. Jaeckel, and Carol A. Miles
Season extension structures like high tunnels make it possible to produce cold-tolerant crops during winter months for both a longer cropping season and a winter market season. The effects of location and planting date on the fresh yield of several cultivars of Asian greens (Brassica rapa L.), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) were examined at Moscow, ID/Pullman, WA, and Vancouver, WA, a cold temperate climate and a mild marine climate, respectively. In Winter 2005–06, 20 cultivars were evaluated and in Winter 2006–07 a subset of 12 cultivars were evaluated. Location impacted yield, and higher yields overall were attained at Vancouver than at Moscow/Pullman, likely as a result of more consistent, warmer soil and air temperatures as well as increasing irradiance in February and March at Vancouver. Asian green cultivars had the highest overall yield resulting from faster growth compared with spinach and lettuce cultivars at both locations. Although most lettuce cultivars grew throughout the winter, further research is needed to identify the most suitable cultivars, seeding dates, and planting densities to optimize winter production of this crop and for Asian greens and spinach. Planting date influenced yields with the highest yields obtained for the third planting date for all trials except at Moscow/Pullman in the second year. Overall, this research suggests that it is possible to grow many cold-tolerant cultivars of Asian greens, spinach, and lettuce in a high tunnel during the winter months in both mild and cold temperate northern climates.
Whitney J. Garton, Mark Mazzola, Nairanjana Dasgupta, Travis R. Alexander, and Carol A. Miles
This study was designed to determine the efficacy of canker excision (CE) followed by a subsequent application of cauterization (CAU) and/or fungicide treatment to the excised area for the management of anthracnose canker (caused by Neofabraea malicorticis) on cider apple (Malus ×domestica) trees. Three experiments were conducted from 2015 to 2017, with one experiment each year, in an experimental cider apple orchard in western Washington where trees were naturally infested with N. malicorticis. Treatments were applied once in December and data were collected January through March. Treatments in the 2015 experiment were CE + CAU, CE + CAU + copper hydroxide, CE + 0.5% sodium hypochlorite, Bordeaux mixture (BM) only, and CE + copper hydroxide (control). The 2016 experiment included the same treatments as in 2015 plus one additional treatment, CE + BM. In 2017, one additional treatment was added, CE only, and CAU treatments were removed as they caused significant injury to the trees. Canker size was measured pretreatment, and the treated canker or excised area was measured posttreatment every 2 weeks for 13–15 weeks. Compared with pretreatment, cankers treated with BM did not increase in size, while the excised area treated with CAU increased 28-fold in size on average, and the excised area treated with 0.5% sodium hypochlorite or copper hydroxide increased up to 4-fold in size. Each year new cankers developed in all treatments 13–15 weeks after treatment application, at a time of year when there should not be any spores present to cause new infections. Dark brown streaking, indicative of the disease, was observed in the tissue below the intact or excised cankers 15 months after treatment application all years. Although N. malicorticis was not isolated from symptomatic tissue, symptoms were observed in all treatments including where cankers had not been excised and there was no wounding of the cambium tissue. Findings from this study indicate that of the treatments evaluated, the application of copper hydroxide after CE was the most effective for limiting the number of new cankers, but it did not limit expansion of the excised area. Additional physical and fungicidal strategies need to be tested for effective management of anthracnose canker.