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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.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan, and Steven A. Sargent

Controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) use is a best management practice that may reduce nitrogen (N) loss to the environment. Several factors affect CRF nutrient release; therefore, including CRF in a fertilization program may have challenges. Thus, the study objective was to evaluate the effects of CRF N rate, source, release duration, and placement on seepage-irrigated marketable tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) yield, leaf tissue N (LTN) concentration, post-season soil N content, and postharvest fruit firmness and color. There were two soluble fertilizer (SF) controls [University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF/IFAS) (224 kg·ha−1) and grower standard (280 kg·ha−1)] and six and seven CRF treatments (alone or in combination with SF) in Fall 2011 and 2012, respectively. Cumulative rainfall totaled 31.4 and 37.4 cm during the 2011 and 2012 seasons with average air temperatures of 22.4 and 22.1 °C, respectively. Soil temperatures ranged from 14.2 to 40.6 °C in 2011 and 11.1 to 36.6 °C in 2012 with a strong correlation (r = 0.95) to air temperature. Controlled-release urea resulted in 7.5% to 17.9% plant mortality in 2011 and reduced yields in 2012 compared with CRF N–phosphorus–potassium (NPK) at a similar N rate. LTN concentrations were above or within the sufficiency range for all treatments. In 2011, using CRF-urea at 190 kg·ha−1 N produced similar marketable tomato yield in all fruit categories except season total large tomatoes, which produced significantly fewer marketable tomatoes with 13.5 Mg·ha−1 compared with UF/IFAS and grower standard with 17.9 and 14.2 Mg·ha−1, respectively. In 2012, CRF-NPK (168 kg·ha−1 N) significantly reduced first and second harvest combined large and season total large and total marketable yields compared with the UF/IFAS rate and grower standard treatments. Marketable yield was not significantly affected by CRF (urea or NPK) release duration, but CRF-NPK 180-day release duration significantly increased residual soil N in 2012 compared with CRF-NPK 120-day release with 74.2 and 34.3 kg·ha−1 N, respectively. Rototilling CRF-urea into the bed, which was only evaluated in 2011, significantly increased total season yields compared with CRF-urea broadcast in row before bedding (BIR) with 43.0 and 46.5 Mg·ha−1, respectively. There were no significant yield differences when 50% or 75% of the total N was CRF placed in the hybrid fertilizer system, which is a system with CRF placed BIR with the remaining N as SF-N banded on the bed shoulders. No significant differences among treatments were found for total residual soil N in 2011; however, higher soil N remained in CRF (NPK and urea) treatments compared with SF treatments in 2012, except for Treatment 9. No significant differences were found among treatments for fruit firmness or color in 2011 or 2012. CRF-NPK at 190 to 224 kg·ha−1 N with a 120-day release may be recommended as a result of similar or greater first harvest and total season marketable yields compared with IFAS-recommended rates and low residual soil N. Further research must be conducted to explore CRF placement and percentage urea composition, although use of the hybrid system or rototilling may be recommended.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan, and Steven A. Sargent

Florida best management practices include the use of controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs), which are soluble nutrients coated with a resin, polymer, sulfur, or a polymer covering a sulfur-coated urea. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of three CRFs (coated, homogenized NH4NO3 and urea, and coated KNO3) rates in a hybrid CRF/soluble nitrogen fertilizer (SNF) system and two SNF rates [University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) and grower standard] on seepage-irrigated fall tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) yields, leaf-tissue nitrogen (LTN) concentration, postseason soil nitrogen (N) content, and postharvest fruit quality. Treatments of 112, 168, and 224 kg·ha−1 CRF N plus 56 kg·ha−1 SNF for total N of 168 (CRF112/SNF56), 224, and 280 kg·ha−1 were compared with IFAS (224 kg·ha−1) and grower standard (280 kg·ha−1) of pre-plant SNF. Tomatoes were planted on 29 Aug. 2011 and 3 Sept. 2012 on polyethylene mulch. Air temperature averaged 23.0 and 22.6 °C for the 2011 and 2012 fall seasons with 33.4 and 37.4 cm of rainfall, respectively. Soil temperatures ranged from 15.2 to 40.1 °C in 2011 and 13.6 to 36.6 °C in 2012. Leaf tissue N concentration exceeded the UF/IFAS-recommended sufficiency range for all treatments and sample dates, except CRF112/SNF56 at the last sample date of 2012. There were no differences in extra-large and total marketable yield at first harvest nor in total extra-large yield (three harvests combined) among treatments in 2011; however, total marketable yield for UF/IFAS, CRF112/SNF56, 168/SNF56, and 224/SNF56 was greater than that of the grower standard. In 2012, CRF112/SNF56 and CRF168/SNF56 had the greatest first harvest extra-large and total yield, but there were no differences between season total marketable yields. No differences between treatments were found for total N remaining in the soil postseason in 2011 or 2012. The grower standard, UF/IFAS, and CRF112/SNF56 were firmer at red ripe (less fruit deformation) in 2011, but there were no differences in 2012. In 2011, CRF112/SNF56 and CRF224/SNF56 were rated highest in red color among the treatments, and in 2012 there were no differences. A hybrid system containing lower and equal N rates (112 to 168 kg·ha−1 CRF N and 56 kg·ha−1 SNF56) compared with UF/IFAS-recommended rates produced comparable marketable yield and fruit quality.

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Abbie J. Fox, David Del Pozo-Insfran, Joon Hee Lee, Steven A. Sargent, and Stephen T. Talcott

Greenhouse-grown bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L. `Robusta') were harvested at five stages of maturation (10% red to full red) in early winter 2002 (Expt. 1) and at two stages (10% red and full red) in early Spring 2002 (Expt. 2). The fruit were subsequently stored at 20 °C in a continuous-flow chamber consisting of either 100 μL·L–1 ethylene (balance air) or air-only (control) at 90% relative humidity (RH). Individual fruit were removed from the chambers upon reaching full red color, and stored at –30 °C until physicochemical analyses were conducted. Harvest maturity, and ethylene exposure had no appreciable effect on pulp soluble solids content, total titratable acidity or pH. Exposure to ethylene hastened ripening time compared to the air control but was independent of fruit maturity at harvest. Fruit exposed to ethylene reached full-red color 6.4 days (Expt. 1) and 4 days (Expt. 2) earlier than air-only fruit, respectively. There were no significant phytochemical and antioxidant differences noted for total carotenoids, total ascorbic acid, and soluble phenolics at various maturity stages due to ethylene exposure. Appreciable differences were observed between the two experiments for phytochemicals and antioxidants, as bell peppers from the latter experiment contained at least twice the concentrations of phytochemicals and antioxidant capacity as those from the first experiment. Differences in these parameters between experiments were attributed to environmental factors such as average temperature, day length, and light intensity. Ethylene was demonstrated to be an effective postharvest treatment for accelerating color change in this bell pepper cultivar, permitting earlier harvest without altering phytochemical synthesis rates.

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Camille Esmel*, John R. Duval, E.H. Simonne, and Steven A. Sargent

Strawberries are a high value commodity with a short shelf life. Florida is the largest producer of winter strawberries in the United States with 2,790 hectares of production, 90% are located in Hillsborough County. Many Florida growers apply additional calcium (Ca) as a foliar spray despite the lack of conclusive evidence of an increase in fruit quality or yield. It is believed that additional Ca will improve cell wall integrity through Ca linkages with pectins with in the cell wall and increase fruit firmness. Preharvest applications of calcium chloride have shown to delay the ripening of strawberry fruit and mold development. The objectives of this two year study were to determine the effects of Ca on yield, growth, and postharvest quality of strawberry when applied to the soil or as a foliar spray. `Sweet Charlie' strawberry plants were grown on a Seffner fine sand in Dover, Fla. The experimental design was a split-block replicated four times with soil and foliar Ca applications. Main plots consisted of a broadcast preplant incorporation of gypsum (calcium sulfate) 0 kg·ha-1, 36.7 kg·ha-1, and 73.4 kg·ha-1. Sub-plots consisted of foliar applications of 400 mg·L-1 Ca from calcium sulfate, 400 and 800 mg·L-1 Ca from calcium chloride and a water control applied weekly throughout the 2002-03 and 2003-04 growing season. Yield data was collected twice weekly through out the growing season. Fruits were graded for quality based upon size, visual appearance of pathogens degradation, frost/water damage, and misshapen form. Calcium content was determined for leaves, fruit, and calyxes in January and March. Postharvest quality evaluations of pH, titratable acidy, soluble solids, and firmness (Instron 4411) were determined in January and March.

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Jiwon Jeong, Jeffrey K. Brecht, Donald J. Huber, and Steven A. Sargent

A study was conducted to determine the influence of the ethylene action inhibitor, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), on the shelf life and deterioration during storage at 5 °C of intact netted muskmelon (Cucumis melo L. var. reticulatus) fruit and fresh-cut cubes prepared from those fruit. ‘Durango’, ‘Magellan’, and ‘7920’ fruit (3/4 to full-slip stage) were treated with 1-MCP (1.0 μL·L−1) for 24 h at 20 °C. Preliminary research with ‘Athena’ muskmelon had shown that the more physiologically advanced distal pericarp tissue developed significantly more watersoaking than the less advanced proximal and center portions during 5 °C storage; therefore, after treatment with 1-MCP and cooling to 5 °C, the center portions of the fruit were used to prepare the fresh-cut samples. Fresh-cut cubes and intact fruit were stored for 12 d at 5 °C. Intact fruit of all tested cultivars responded to 1-MCP application with improved firmness retention during storage, but no watersoaking was observed in intact fruit. The effect of 1-MCP treatment on the firmness retention and watersoaking of fresh-cut cubes from the different cultivars was inconsistent. Exposure of muskmelon fruit to 1-MCP did not significantly influence the flesh color or soluble solid contents of either intact fruit or fresh-cut cubes during storage at 5 °C.

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Raina L. Allen, Benjamin R. Warren, Douglas L. Archer, Keith R. Schneider, and Steven A. Sargent

Multi-state outbreaks of salmonellosis due to the consumption of contaminated fresh tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) have recently occurred in the United States. This study investigated the survival of a five-serovar (serotype) Salmonella cocktail artificially inoculated onto tomato and packing line surfaces when held at various temperature and relative humidity (RH) combinations over 28 days. Packinghouse surfaces included stainless steel, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), sponge rollers, conveyor belts, and unfinished oak wood surfaces. Packinghouse climates were generated to simulate conditions in Florida during late spring (30 °C/80% RH) and fall/winter (20 °C/60% RH) months. Additionally, survival of Salmonella on tomatoes in standard ripening room conditions (20 °C/90% RH) was evaluated. Recovery of inocula was by a vigorous shake/hand rub method. After 28 days, Salmonella populations remained detectable on tomato surfaces regardless of environmental conditions. Inoculated Salmonella populations tested at spring conditions declined to undetectable levels on all packing line materials by day 11, with the exception of the unfinished oak, which reached undetectable levels by day 21. In contrast, inoculated Salmonella populations tested at fall/winter conditions declined to undetectable levels on sponge rollers and conveyor belts by day 7 and day 21, respectively. Stainless steel, PVC, and wood surfaces supported the survival of detectable populations of Salmonella over the 28-day sampling period. Results of this study demonstrate the potential for Salmonella to persist on tomato and packing line surfaces under common environmental conditions.

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Marcos D. Ferreira, Jeffrey K. Brecht, Steven A. Sargent, and Craig K. Chandler

Hydrocooling was evaluated as an alternative to forced-air cooling for strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) fruit. `Sweet Charlie' strawberries were cooled by forced-air and hydrocooling to 4 °C and held in different storage regimes in three different trials. Quality attributes, including surface color, firmness, weight loss, soluble solids, and ascorbic acid content, pH and total titratable acidity, were evaluated at the full ripe stage. Fruit hydrocooled to 4 °C and stored at different temperatures for 8 or 15 days showed overall better quality than forced-air cooled fruit, with significant differences in epidermal color, weight loss, and incidence and severity of decay. Fruit stored wrapped in polyvinylchloride (PVC) film after forced-air cooling or hydrocooling retained better color, lost less weight, and retained greater firmness than fruit stored uncovered, but usually had increased decay. There is potential for using hydrocooling as a cooling method for strawberries.

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Steven A. Sargent, Adrian D. Berry, Jeffrey G. Williamson, and James W. Olmstead

Three southern highbush blueberry cultivars (Vaccinium corymbosum hybrids) were mechanically harvested (MH) or hand-harvested (HH) and commercially packed before storage for 14 days at 1 °C in two successive years. MH fruit were softer, had lower ratings for overall appearance, and lost up to 20% more fresh weight than HH fruit after 14 days storage. MH ‘Meadowlark’ had fewer soft fruit (<35%) during storage than either ‘Sweetcrisp’ or ‘Farthing’; however, the latter two cultivars had lower incidences of shrivel and weight loss. Fruit in the 2010 season were more susceptible to bruising than those from the 2009 season; however, soluble solids content (SSC), total titratable acidity (TTA), and ascorbic acid concentration remained constant during storage and between seasons. ‘Meadowlark’ had the highest sugar to acid ratio (25.0). Successful implementation of MH of southern highbush blueberries for fresh market will only be commercially feasible if harvest impacts are further reduced.

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Adrian D. Berry, Steven A. Sargent, Marcio Eduardo Canto Pereira, and Donald J. Huber

Two Guatemalan-West Indian avocado (Persea americana) hybrids (‘Monroe’ and ‘Booth 8’) were treated with an aqueous formulation of 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) to determine effects on ripening and quality during storage simulating commercial shipping temperatures. Fruit harvested at preclimacteric stage were immersed in aqueous 1-MCP at 75 μg·L−1 (1.39 mmol·m−3) or in deionized water for 1 minute, stored at 10 °C for 14 days, and then transferred to 20 °C until ripe. Respiration rate, ethylene production, softening, and change in epidermal hue* angle were delayed and/or suppressed in both cultivars exposed to 1-MCP, although effects were less pronounced with Booth 8. Hue* angles for 1-MCP-treated ‘Monroe’ fruit had the highest values (darkest green peel color) of all treatments at full-ripe stage (hue* angle = 117). For control and treated ‘Monroe’ fruit respiration peaked on days 15 and 21, while ethylene production from both treatments peaked on day 16. Respiration and ethylene production peaked on day 16 for both control and 1-MCP–treated ‘Booth 8’ fruit. Fruit treated with 1-MCP consistently showed diminished respiration and ethylene peaks. Days to full-ripe stage were unaffected by treatment. ‘Booth 8’ fruit from both treatments were considered ripe (15 N whole fruit firmness) after 17 days; however, only 8% of control fruit were marketable, whereas 58% of 1-MCP-treated fruit were marketable, based on subjective appearance ratings using the Jenkins–Wehner score. The development of peel blemishes during storage was the primary cause of unmarketable fruit. ‘Monroe’ control and 1-MCP–treated fruit were soft after about 22 days and were significantly more marketable (control 70% and 1-MCP 85%). Avocados treated with 1-MCP ripened over a longer period than control fruit but maintained a higher percentage of marketable fruit.