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Mario Mandujano, F.G. Dennis Jr., D.E. Guyer, E. Timm, and G.K. Brown

Michigan growers often have severe problems with soft `Montmorency' sour cherries. Causal factors may include weather conditions, orchard practices, harvesting methods, and conditions during hold of fruits prior to processing. In this study, efforts were concentrated on orchard practices, including shading to reduce solar radiation, irrigation, nutrient level, and application of growth regulators, especially ethephon and gibberellin. Fruit firmness decreased as maturity approached, then stabilized. Significant fruit softening occurred only during mechanical harvesting. No treatments, including sprays of calcium and potassium, consistently increased firmness, but firmness was reduced in 1993 by spraying with ethephon. Firmness varied among orchards, but no “soft” fruit, as defined by industry standards, were observed in harvested fruit. Softening appeared to be caused by excessive bruising, and was always associated with mechanical damage. Advanced maturity and heavy cropping appear to predispose the cherries to greater bruise damage.

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Tom DeGomez

The wild lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) in Maine and the Maritime Provinces of Canada has been managed for hundreds of years, first by native Americans and more recently by European settlers. Early production practices consisted of periodic free burns over large tracts of land for pruning and weed control. New practices have centered on intensifying production and include flail mow pruning, mechanical harvesting, herbicides for weed control, and monitoring pest populations. Most recently, land smoothing for improved mechanization and leaf sampling for nutrient analysis have been adopted. Land smoothing allows producers with rough land to use labor-saving equipment and apply pesticides more precisely. Leaf analysis predicts nutrient availability much more accurately than soil testing.

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M. Ahmedullah

The extent of translocation of 14C-labeled photosynthates from the senescent leaf to the parent vine before leaf abscission and the short-term effects of premature leaf removal on the carbohydrate balance of the vine were studied by using autoradiography and trapping 14CO2 respired from the treated leaf. The treated leaf abscissed 1.5 days after administering the label. The plant was harvested after natural leaf abscission. The radioactivity recovered from the plant, excluding the treated leaf, was 20% of the input. Radioactivity was detected in the roots, trunk, shoot, and leaves. Most of the radioactivity remained in the trunk and the young and old roots. The implications of premature leaf removal by mechanical harvesting on the carbohydrate balance of the vine are discussed.

Open access

Mark K. Ehlenfeldt and James L. Luteyn

Vaccinium meridionale (section Pyxothamnus), a tetraploid species native to higher altitude locations in Jamaica, Colombia, and Venezuela, is of considerable interest to blueberry breeders for its profuse, concentrated flowering and monopodial plant structure, both of which may be useful in breeding for mechanical harvest. In this study, tetraploid V. meridionale was successfully hybridized as a male with 4x V. corymbosum (section Cyanococcus, highbush blueberry). The first-generation hybrids with highbush blueberry selections were intermediate in morphology and notably vigorous. The 4x F1 hybrids displayed variable branching structure, dormancy, prolificacy, fruit wax, etc.; however, most appear to be deciduous to semi-evergreen, with small, dark-colored fruit. The F1 hybrids displayed good fertility as females in backcrosses to 4x highbush and these crosses have produced numerous offspring morphologically indistinguishable from 4x highbush at the seedling stage. Evaluations of male fertility found variation for pollen production and quality but, significantly, found some clones with very good shed, high stainability, and almost complete tetrad production. The fertility suggests that these hybrids, despite being derived from intersectional crosses, might be conventionally used without significant difficulty. These hybrids also have potential value for the nascent V. meridionale breeding efforts occurring in Colombia, South America.

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Craig R. Andersen

Pickling cucumber production has steadily shifted to machine harvest as availability and cost of labor have become limiting factors. In a once over harvest, one needs to schedule harvest for optimum yield and economic return. This becomes a critical factor when one is scheduling both equipment and planting schedules. To predict the time for mechanical harvest of pickling cucumbers, one needs to know the relative fruit growth rates. Previously two cultivars were grown in the greenhouse and they were Calypso and H-19, a little leaf cultivar. Growth rates of individual fruit and combinations of two fruit at adjacent nodes were measured. The cultivar H-19 had overall slower growth rates than Calypso but the competition from adjacent fruit was less in H-19 than Calypso. The experiment was repeated with plants in the field and similar results were obtained. Data will be presented showing the growth rates of field grown fruit for individual and combinations of adjacent fruit. Growth rates were recorded for a population of fruit within a square meter. This data will be compared to the growth rates for individual fruit.

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Gary T. Roberson

Precision agriculture is a comprehensive system that relies on information, technology, and management to optimize agricultural production. While used for several years in agronomic crops, it is attracting increasing interest in horticultural crops. Relatively high per-acre crop values for some horticultural crops makes precision agriculture an attractive production system. Precision agriculture efforts in biological and agricultural engineering at North Carolina State Univ. are currently focused in two functional areas: site specific managment (SSM) and postharvest process managment (PPM). Much of the information base, technology, and management practices developed in agronomic crops have practical and potentially profitable applications in fruit and vegetable production. Mechanized soil sampling, and variable rate control systems are readily adapted to horticultural crops. Postharvest controls are widely used to enhance or protect product quality. These technologies and their applications will be discussed in this presentation. Yield monitors are under development for many crops that can be mechanically harvested. An overview of these developments will be discussed. In addition, low-cost technologies for entry into precision will be presented.

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Dale E. Marshall

For 50 years, engineers, producers, processors, and manufacturers have been working on new and improved ways for mechanization of the harvest of pickling cucumbers, Cucumis sativus L. In 1957, processors investigated multiple-pick concepts. Multiple-pick harvesters were commercially manufactured in the early 1960s (Chisholm–Ryder). In the late 1950s, Stout and Ries evaluated the known multiple-pick harvesting concepts. In the early 1960s, once-over harvesting concepts were considered and evaluated by Ries and Stout. By significantly increasing the plant population and other horticultural practice and variety improvements, once-over harvest became the main thrust of mechanization from 1965 on. By 1970, at least major five commercial manufacturers sold harvesters (Blackwelder, FMC Corp., Hart Carter [later sold out to Cuke, Inc.], Porter-Way, and Wilde). In 1996 there are four commercial manufacturers (Cuke, FMC Corp., Jerry's Welding, and Pik Rite). Limited multiple-pick research and manufacturers persisted (Aero-Glide, Mac-Weld, and Powell). By 1975 over 85% of Michigan's pickling cucumbers were mechanically harvested, leading all other states. Today, about 60% of Michigan's production is harvested with machines. The information presented will be informative and an historical aid for engineers, manufacturers, horticulturists, processors, and historians, etc. to ensure that the worldwide research is known by scientists endeavoring to accomplish harvest mechanization.

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Haim D. Rabinowitch, Batya Friedlander, and Ross Peters

Recently, a dwarf scape mutant was found in `Autumn Beit-Alpha' onion (Allium cepa L.). The development of dwarf scape in onion, the genetic control of this attribute, and its response to external application of ethephon and GA3 were studied. Data from segregating populations conclusively showed that a single recessive gene, designated dw1, controls scape dwarfness in onions. Its expression is slightly modified by minor genes. Relatively slow growth and early cessation of cell elongation are the characteristics associated with scape dwarfness. A similar developmental pattern characterized emerging normal flower stalks treated with ethephon. GA3 application at 50 ppm had no effect on scape elongation of dwarf plants. In each of 3 years, dwarf genotypes always produced scapes about half the length of normal ones. The marked expression stability of the dw 1 gene will facilitate its introduction into onion cultivars. Providing there is no negative pleiotropic effect, the dwarfness gene is expected to reduce lodging and, thus, improve mechanical harvest of onion seed. Chemical names used: 2-chloroethyl phosphoric acid (ethephon), gibberellic acid (GA3).

Full access

Alvin D. Rutledge

Research yields of conservation tillage (CT) snap beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) and sweet corn (Zea mays L. var. rugosa Bonaf.) have been less than those produced under conventional tillage. This has been due to soil conditions at planting, the cover crop used, weed control and a lack of proper design in equipment for CT. However, some growers have been successful with CT for sweet corn using hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.) as the cover crop. On-farm demonstrations of CT with cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. Capitata Group), pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo L.), tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) and watermelons [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb) Matsum. & Nak.] have been successful and with good management it is commercially feasible under Tennessee conditions. Advantages include reduced soil erosion, cleaner products, more efficient application of crop protection chemicals, quicker planting after rainfall, lower energy costs and facilitation of harvest in wet weather. Disadvantages include reduced weed control, modifications of existing equipment, less uniformity in seed coverage and problems with transplanting, cover crop residue in mechanically harvested crops, possible delays in early harvest of fresh market crops due to delayed maturity and limited application of soil protective chemicals.

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Yaying Wu, Brian A. Kahn, and John B. Solie

We are developing a mechanical harvest system for okra [Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench]. Our objective was to identify a high-density (HD) plant arrangement and a harvest timing that would maximize marketable fruit yield per hectare with a destructive harvest. We compared destructively harvested plants grown at spacings of (in cm) 15 × 15, 23 × 23, and 30 × 30 with hand-harvested plants grown at 90 × 23 cm. Within HD treatments, marketable fruit weight increased inconsistently as plant density increased. The 30 × 30-cm spacing was not dense enough. Branching decreased and the position of the first marketable fruit attachment moved up as plant density increased. Delaying destructive harvest until many over-mature fruit were present often did not increase marketable fruit yield and always reduced the proportion of total harvested fruit weight due to marketable fruit. Overall, percentages of marketable yield obtained by destructive harvests of HD plants were low compared to the cumulative marketable yield from control plants. However, the labor-saving potential was high. A prototype machine for harvest of HD okra has been developed, and further testing is planned.