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Bruno Casamali, Jeffrey G. Williamson, Alisson P. Kovaleski, Steven A. Sargent, and Rebecca L. Darnell

The profitability of the fresh market blueberry industry in many areas is constrained by the extensive use and cost of soil amendments, high labor requirements for hand harvesting, and the inefficiencies of mechanical harvesters. Vaccinium arboreum Marsh is a wild species that has wide soil adaptation and monopodial growth habit. It has the potential to be used as a blueberry rootstock, expanding blueberry production to marginal soil and improving the mechanical harvesting efficiency of cultivated blueberry. The objectives of this research were to compare yield, berry quality, and postharvest fruit storage of own-rooted vs. grafted southern highbush blueberry (SHB) cultivars (Farthing and Meadowlark) grown on amended vs. nonamended soil and either hand or mechanical harvested. Yields of hand-harvested SHB during the first two fruiting years were generally greater in own-rooted plants grown on amended soil compared with own-rooted plants on nonamended soil or grafted plants on either soil treatment. However, by the second fruiting year, hand-harvest yields of grafted SHB were ≈80% greater than own-rooted plants when grown in nonamended soil. Yields of mechanical-harvested SHB grafted on V. arboreum and grown in either soil treatment were similar to yields of mechanical-harvested own-rooted plants in amended soil the second fruiting year, and greater than yields of own-rooted plants in non-amended soil. In general, mechanical harvesting reduced marketable yield ≈40% compared with hand harvesting. However, grafted plants reduced ground losses during harvest by ≈35% compared with own-rooted plants for both cultivars. Mechanical-harvested berries had a greater total soluble solids:total titratable acidity ratio (TSS:TTA) than hand-harvested berries, and berries harvested toward the end of the harvest season had a greater TSS:TTA than those from early-season harvests. As postharvest storage time increased, berry appearance ratings decreased and berry softness and shriveling increased, particularly in mechanical-harvested compared with hand-harvested berries. Firmness of mechanical-harvested berries decreased during storage, whereas firmness of hand-harvested berries remained relatively stable. However, fruit quality at harvest and during postharvest storage was unaffected by V. arboreum rootstocks or lack of pine bark amendment. This study suggests that using V. arboreum as a rootstock in an alternative blueberry production system has the potential to decrease the use of soil amendments and increase mechanical harvesting efficiency.

Free access

Alisson P. Kovaleski, Jeffrey G. Williamson, Bruno Casamali, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Pruning is a recommended practice for blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) production and is usually done in the summer in warm subtropical climates with long growing seasons. Summer pruning promotes healthy vegetative growth during the remainder of the growing season; however, research-based recommendations for summer pruning strategies are lacking. The objective of this study was to determine effects of summer pruning timing and intensity on vegetative growth in ‘Jewel’ and ‘Emerald’ southern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum-interspecific hybrid), two cultivars of the primary species grown in subtropical areas. To determine effects of pruning time, 30% of the canopy was removed in June or July. To determine pruning intensity effects, either 30% or 60% of the canopy was removed in June, both followed by shoot tipping in July. Both timing and intensity treatments were compared with a non-pruned control. Lack of pruning in the first year had no negative effects on growth; however, lack of pruning for two or more seasons decreased regrowth volume and shoot length of both cultivars. By the third season, canopy regrowth volume in both cultivars decreased in the non-pruned control compared with the 30% and 60% pruning treatments and compared with the June pruning treatment. Disease infection in ‘Jewel’ was also increased in the non-pruned control compared with these pruning treatments. Summer pruning, regardless of timing or intensity, generally increased vigor of vegetative growth for both cultivars and decreased incidence of leaf disease in ‘Jewel’.

Free access

Bruno Casamali, Rebecca L. Darnell, Alisson P. Kovaleski, James W. Olmstead, and Jeffrey G. Williamson

Vaccinium arboreum Marsh is a wild species adapted to high pH (above 6.0) and low organic matter soils (below 2.0%). The use of V. arboreum rootstocks may be a viable option to increase soil adaptation of southern highbush blueberry (SHB) (Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrid) under marginal soil conditions. The objective of this research was to evaluate the vegetative and reproductive traits of ‘Farthing’ and ‘Meadowlark’ SHB own-rooted or grafted onto V. arboreum and grown in pine bark–amended or nonamended soil. The study was conducted from 2012 through 2014 at a research center in Citra, FL, and a grower’s farm in Archer, FL. Vaccinium arboreum rootstock generally induced the same effects in both cultivars. Grafted plants in both soil treatments had reduced canopy growth in the first year after field planting compared with own-rooted plants in amended soil. However, canopy volume of grafted plants was greater than own-rooted plants in nonamended soil and similar to own-rooted plants in amended soil 2 years after field planting for ‘Meadowlark’ and 3 years after planting for ‘Farthing’. Fruit yield was lower in grafted plants compared with own-rooted plants in the first fruiting year (2 years after field planting). By the second fruiting year, yields of grafted plants were similar to or greater than yields of own-rooted plants when grown in nonamended soil, whereas in amended soil, yields of grafted plants were similar to yields of own-rooted plants. Grafted plants had greater mean berry weight, but lower berry firmness; however, the firmness values were still considered acceptable (greater than 160 g⋅mm−1). Internal fruit quality [total soluble solids (TSS) and total titratable acidity (TTA)] was not consistently affected by the rootstock or soil treatments. These results suggest that grafting SHB onto V. arboreum does not increase yield in the establishment years compared with own-rooted SHB when grown in amended soils, but may have the ability to increase yield with no negative effects on fruit quality when grown in nonamended soils.

Free access

Alisson P. Kovaleski, Rebecca L. Darnell, Bruno Casamali, and Jeffrey G. Williamson

Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) summer pruning can increase yield by promoting healthy fall foliage to support the reproductive development. However, there has been little research to examine the effects of timing and intensity of summer pruning in subtropical conditions. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of summer pruning timing and intensity on reproductive traits of mature ‘Jewel’ and ‘Emerald’ southern highbush blueberry (SHB) plants (V. corymbosum L. interspecific hybrid) in subtropical Florida. The effect of pruning time was evaluated by removing 30% of the canopy in June or July. The effect of intensity was evaluated by pruning either 30% or 60% of the canopy in June, followed by removal of the upper 5 cm of regrowth (“tipping”) in July. Both timing and intensity used nonpruned plants as a control. The same plants were evaluated over three consecutive seasons (June 2011–May 2014). Main effects of pruning time, intensity, and tipping were evaluated. Tipping did not affect the reproductive traits evaluated. ‘Emerald’ reproductive traits were unaffected by either summer pruning time or intensity over the 3-year study. ‘Jewel’ yield was unaffected in the first year, but was increased by 48% and 65% in years 2 and 3, respectively, in the 30% pruning treatment compared with the nonpruned control. Lack of pruning in ‘Jewel’ decreased inflorescence bud number compared with moderate pruning likely due to more diseased foliage that increased defoliation. Thus, pruning effects on reproductive traits were cultivar dependent. Leaving ‘Jewel’ plants unpruned for two or more seasons reduced inflorescence bud number and yield.

Full access

Rebecca L. Darnell, Horacio E. Alvarado, Jeffrey G. Williamson, Bryan Brunner, María Plaza, and Edna Negrón

There is increasing interest in red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) production worldwide due to increased demand for both fresh and processed fruit. Although the United States is the third largest raspberry producer in the world, domestic demand exceeds supply, and the shortage in fresh market raspberries is filled by imported fruit from Canada during July and August, and from Mexico and Chile during November through May. The raspberry harvest season is well defined and the perishability of the fruit limits postharvest storage. Winter production of raspberry in tropical and subtropical climates could extend the harvest season and allow off-season fruit production during periods of high market prices. The objective of the current study was to examine growth and yield of red raspberry cultivars grown in an annual winter production system in Florida and Puerto Rico. Long cane cultivars were purchased from a nursery in the Pacific northwestern U.S. in 2002 (`Heritage' and `Tulameen'), 2003 (`Tulameen' and `Willamette'), and 2004 (`Tulameen' and `Cascade Delight') and planted in raised beds in polyethylene tunnels in December (Florida) or under an open-sided polyethylene structure in January-March (Puerto Rico). In Florida, harvest occurred from ∼mid-March through the end of May, while in Puerto Rico, harvest occurred from the end of March through early June (except in 2002, when canes were planted in March). Yields per cane varied with cultivar, but ranged from ∼80 to 600 g/cane for `Tulameen', 170 to 290 g/cane for `Heritage', 135 to 350 g/cane for `Willamette', and ∼470 g/cane for `Cascade Delight'. Economic analysis suggests that, at this point, returns on this system would be marginal. However, increasing cane number per unit area and increasing pollination efficiency may increase yields, while planting earlier would increase the return per unit. The key to success may hinge on developing a system where multi-year production is feasible in a warm winter climate.

Open access

Rebecca L. Darnell, Jeffrey G. Williamson, Deanna C. Bayo, and Philip F. Harmon

Vaccinium arboreum Marsh is a small tree adapted to low-organic matter soils and is one of the few ericaceous species that tolerates soil pH greater than 6.0. It has a deep root system and is more drought tolerant than cultivated blueberry. The use of V. arboreum as a rootstock for commercial blueberry production has been studied previously in young blueberry plantings. The objective of the current study was to expand on earlier work and evaluate growth, productivity, and tolerance to bacterial leaf scorch (Xylella fastidiosa) in established plantings of own-rooted vs. grafted southern highbush blueberry (SHB). Two field plantings of grafted and own-rooted ‘Meadowlark’ and ‘Farthing’ SHB were established in May 2011: one at the University of Florida–Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, FL, and the other at a commercial blueberry farm in Archer, FL. At both sites, four rootstock–scion combinations were grown in either pine bark-amended or nonamended soil. Canopy volume was greater in grafted compared with own-rooted ‘Meadowlark’ at both locations throughout the 4 years of the study (2015–18), whereas canopy volume in ‘Farthing’ was not consistently different. For both cultivars and both locations, canopy volume was greater on amended compared with nonamended soil. Although canopy growth was not consistently increased in the grafted compared with own-rooted plants, yield was greater in grafted plants of both cultivars at both locations. Cumulative yield over the 4 years was similar between grafted plants grown on both amended and nonamended soil, and was significantly greater than yield of own-rooted plants on nonamended soil, suggesting the use of this rootstock may decrease the requirement for pine bark amendment. In general, grafted plants produced larger berries, with no negative impacts on fruit soluble solids, titratable acidity, or firmness. ‘Meadowlark’—an SHB cultivar that exhibits high sensitivity to bacterial leaf scorch—displayed decreased development of bacterial leaf scorch symptoms when grafted onto V. arboreum compared with own-rooted plants. These results indicate the potential benefits of grafting SHB onto V. arboreum rootstock, particularly under marginal soil conditions. However, a complete economic analysis that also takes into account any differences in longevity between the two systems must be done to determine whether the benefits of using grafting are feasible financially for the grower.

Free access

Alisson P. Kovaleski, Jeffrey G. Williamson, James W. Olmstead, and Rebecca L. Darnell

Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) production is increasing worldwide, particularly in subtropical growing regions, but information on timing and extent of inflorescence bud development during summer and fall and effects on bloom the next season are limited. The objectives of this study were to determine time of inflorescence bud initiation, describe internal inflorescence bud development, and determine the relationship between internal inflorescence bud development and bloom period the next spring in two southern highbush blueberry [SHB (Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrids)] cultivars. ‘Emerald’ and ‘Jewel’ SHB buds were collected beginning in late summer until shoot growth cessation in late fall for dissection and identification of organ development. Inflorescence bud frequency and number, vegetative and inflorescence bud length and width throughout development, and bloom were also assessed. Inflorescence bud initiation occurred earlier in ‘Emerald’ compared with ‘Jewel’. Five stages of internal inflorescence bud development were defined throughout fall in both cultivars, ranging from a vegetative meristem to early expansion of the inflorescence bud in late fall. ‘Emerald’ inflorescence buds were larger and bloomed earlier, reflecting the earlier inflorescence bud initiation and development. Although inflorescence bud initiation occurred earlier in ‘Emerald’ compared with ‘Jewel’, the pattern of development was not different. Timing of inflorescence bud initiation influenced timing of bloom with earlier initiation resulting in earlier bloom.

Free access

Gerardo H. Nunez, Hilda Patricia Rodríguez-Armenta, Rebecca L. Darnell, and James W. Olmstead

Root growth and root system architecture (RSA) are affected by edaphic and genetic factors and they can impact plant growth and farm profitability. Southern highbush blueberries [SHBs (Vaccinium corymbosum hybrids)] develop shallow, fibrous root systems, and exhibit a preference for acidic soils where water and ammonium are readily available. The amendments used to create these soil conditions negatively affect the profitability of SHB plantations. Hence, breeding for RSA traits has been suggested as an alternative to soil amendments. Vaccinium arboreum is a wild species that is used in SHB breeding. V. arboreum exhibits greater drought tolerance and broader soil pH adaptation than SHB, and—according to anecdotal evidence—it develops deep, taproot-like root systems. The present study constitutes the first in-depth study of the RSA of Vaccinium species with the intention of facilitating breeding for RSA traits. Root systems were studied in rhizotron-grown seedling families. In separate experiments, we tested the effect that growth substrate and family pedigree can have on root growth and RSA. Subsequently, a genotyping by sequence approach was used to develop single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers that could be used along with the phenotyping method to investigate the heritability of RSA traits and look for marker-trait associations. We found that RSA is affected by growth substrate and family pedigree. In addition, we found that V. arboreum exhibited greater maximum root depth and a lower percentage of roots in the top 8 cm of soil than SHB, and interspecific hybrids generally exhibited intermediate phenotypes. Also, we found that RSA traits exhibit moderate to low heritability and genetic correlations among them. Finally, we found 59 marker-trait associations. Among these markers, 37 were found to be located in exons, and 16 of them were annotated based on protein homology with entries in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) GenBank. Altogether, the present study provides tools that can be used to breed for root architecture traits in SHB.

Full access

Emmanuel A. Torres-Quezada, Lincoln Zotarelli, Vance M. Whitaker, Rebecca L. Darnell, Bielinski M. Santos, and Kelly T. Morgan

Earlier fall planting dates for strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) in west-central Florida tend to promote earlier onset of flowering and fruiting. However, warm air temperatures (>28 °C) can result in excessive growth and runner production. Sprinkler irrigation is a common practice to reduce air temperature in the first 10 to15 days after transplanting, requiring large volumes of irrigation water. An alternative to sprinkler irrigation is the application of crop protectants such as kaolin clay after transplanting. The objectives of this study were to determine the optimal planting dates and to assess the most appropriate establishment practices for strawberry bare-root transplants in Florida. Four establishment practices—10 days of sprinkler irrigation (DSI), 10 DSI + kaolin clay, 7 DSI, and 7 DSI + kaolin clay were evaluated for ‘Florida Radiance’ and Sweet Sensation® ‘Florida127’ transplanted in mid September, late September, and early October in consecutive seasons. For ‘Florida127’, September planting dates increased early yield compared with early-October traditional planting dates, with no difference in total yield. Seven DSI followed by the foliar application of kaolin clay at day 8 was also found to increase early yield compared with 10 DSI for strawberry establishment, with annual water savings of 108.7 mm.

Open access

Emmanuel A. Torres-Quezada, Lincoln Zotarelli, Vance M. Whitaker, Rebecca L. Darnell, Kelly Morgan, and Bielinski M. Santos

Florida-produced strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) plug transplants (SP) are a potential alternative to bare-root transplants (BR). The adoption of this technology could represent a reduction in water usage for plant establishment and potentially higher early yield, as SP may establish more quickly than BR. Thus, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of time in nursery and tray sizes, on early and total strawberry yield for Florida-produced SP for ‘Florida Radiance’, ‘Strawberry Festival’, and Sweet Sensation® ‘Florida127’. Runners from Florida-produced mother plants were collected in mid and late August from 2012 to 2015. SP were grown for either 4 or 6 weeks according to the treatment and established in 30-, 40-, 50-, and 72-cell trays, and compared with BR (control). Additionally, strawberry tips from California were evaluated for SP production. BR consistently had higher early yield than SP, ranging from 36% to 91%, between 2012 and 2016. SP produced the same or higher total yield than BR. Florida-produced SP should be grown for 4 weeks before field transplanting in 50-cell trays based on the results of this study. Furthermore, there was no difference between California and Florida tips for total yield. In all seasons, all SP were established with 20% of the total irrigation water used for the BR. Thus, SP could potentially result in water savings of almost 820,800 gal/acre per season, but the early yield of SP would need to be improved to match BR performance.