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Hein J. Gerber, Willem J. Steyn, and Karen I. Theron

The European fig cultivars Bourjasotte Noire, Col de Damme Noire, and Noire de Caromb were recently introduced to the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Producers struggle to implement effective commercial practices that will optimize yield of quality fruit. A phenological study was conducted to establish the optimum 1-year-old shoot length to maximize yield. The number of fruit, budbreak, and shoot growth on 1-year-old shoots comprising four length categories (‘Bourjasotte Noire’: 10 to 15, 25 to 40, 50 to 65, and 75+ cm; ‘Col de Damme Noire’ and ‘Noire de Caromb’: 10 to 20, 30 to 50, 60 to 80, and 100+ cm) were evaluated. In ‘Bourjasotte Noire’, all four categories seem to be suited for reproduction in the current season and also provide sufficient new shoot growth to ensure a fair yield the next season. In ‘Col de Damme Noire’, category four seems to be the best 1-year-old shoot length for reproduction both in terms of fruit number and fruit size. However, yield on these shoots may not be optimal the next season, because current-season shoots are too short. It seems that this cultivar will require pruning to stimulate strong new shoot growth that will ensure regular, high yields. In ‘Noire de Caromb’, category one shoots are very productive relative to their length. Categories two and three were also relatively productive, whereas category four was less productive but developed a large number of current-season shoots similar in length to category one that should be productive the next season. These results will allow us to develop pruning strategies to ensure an optimal balance between current-season yield and the development of new fruiting wood to ensure regular, high yields. It also suggests that the three cultivars studied will require differential application of horticultural practices to attain regular, high yields of large fruit.

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Brian P. Pellerin, Deborah Buszard, David Iron, Charles G. Embree, Richard P. Marini, Douglas S. Nichols, Gerald H. Neilsen, and Denise Neilsen

Tree fruit growers use chemical and mechanical thinning techniques in an attempt to maintain regular annual flower production and maximum repeatable yields of varieties susceptible to biennial bearing. If the percentage of floral buds an apple tree could produce without causing yield depression in subsequent years was known, it would be possible to better manage crop-thinning regimes. This study proposes that thinning is a partial transfer of potential flower buds from one year to the next year and estimates the maximum repeatable sequence of flower buds without biennial bearing. The conceptual framework is tested on a 50-year simulation with 0% to 100% transfer of thinned flower buds. Results indicate that the maximum repeatable sequence of flower buds rises sharply when the final years of the orchard approach and declines when the percent transfer of thinned buds is near 0%.

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Charles F. Forney, Stephanie Bishop, Michele Elliot, and Vivian Agar

Extending the storage life of fresh cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) requires an optimum storage environment to minimize decay and physiological breakdown (PB). To assess the effects of relative humidity (RH) and temperature on storage life, cranberry fruit from four bogs were stored over calcium nitrate, sodium chloride, or potassium nitrate salts, which maintained RH at 75%, 88%, and 98%, respectively. Containers at each RH were held at 0, 3, 5, 7, or 10 °C and fruit quality was evaluated monthly for 6 months. Both decay and PB increased with increasing RH in storage. After 6 months, 32%, 38%, and 54% of fruit were decayed and 28%, 31%, and 36% developed PB when stored in 75%, 88%, and 98% RH, respectively. The effects of RH continued to be apparent after fruit were removed from storage, graded, and held for 7 days at 20 °C. The decay of graded fruit after 4 months of storage in 75%, 88%, or 98% RH was 10%, 13%, and 31%, respectively, while PB was 12%, 12%, and 17%, respectively. Fresh weight loss decreased as RH increased averaging 1.9%, 1.4%, and 0.7% per month for storage in 75%, 88%, and 98% RH, respectively. Fruit firmness was not affected by RH. Storage temperature had little effect on decay. However, PB was greatest in fruit stored at 10 °C, encompassing 55% of fruit after 5 months of storage. When graded fruit were held an additional 7 days at 20 °C, decay and PB were greater in fruit previously stored at 0 or 3 °C than at 5, 7, or 10 °C. Fresh weight loss increased as storage temperature increased, averaging 0.8%, 1.0%, 1.3%, 1.7%, and 1.9% per month at 0, 3, 5, 7, and 10 °C, respectively. Fruit firmness decreased during storage, but was not affected by storage temperature. To maximize storage and shelf life, cranberry fruit should be stored in a RH of about 75% at 5 °C.

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Athanasios P. Papadopoulos

The greenhouse cover has previously been shown to have large effects upon the greenhouse environment, crop productivity and energy use. However, in most cases, because of inadequate treatment replication, the extent of these effects has been impossible to quantify with confidence. In the fall of 1987, a new greenhouse complex of 9 mini greenhouses (6.4m × 7.2m, each) was constructed at the Harrow Research Station on the principles of the 3×3 Latin Square experimental design and with glass, double polyethylene film and double acrylic panel greenhouse covers as the three levels of treatment in the Latin Square. During the spring seasons of 1988 and 1990 the greenhouse cucumber cultivar Corona was cropped in rockwool in all 9 mini greenhouses, under 3 day air (DAT: 18°C, 21 °C and 24°C) and 3 night air temperatures (NAT: 16°C, 18°C and 20°C), superimposed across the rows and columns of greenhouses, respectively, to estimate yield and energy use response to DAT, NAT and greenhouse cover variation. Early marketable yield was highest at the 18/18 and 18/20°C DAT/NAT combinations and final marketable yield was highest at 18°C DAT regardless of NAT. Yield differences due to the greenhouse cover were insignificant. However, there were consistent differences in greenhouse air RH due to greenhouse cover (60%, 70% and 75% daily averages for glass, double polyethylene and double acrylic, respectively). Also, there were significant energy savings with the use of double polyethylene or double acrylic, as compared to glass greenhouse cover, and with low DAT and NAT (28%, 15% and 12% energy use reduction, respectively).

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Roland E. Roberts and Michael G. Hickey

Texas processing potato growers want high tuber yield and soluble solids with optimal nitrogen (N) fertilization to avoid leaching N into underground water. A 3-year on-farm study demonstrated petiole and soil testing methods for N enabling growers to apply N at rates and times for maximum yield with acceptable specific gravity. For example, a FL-1553 crop received 160 N kg/ha in irrigation water spread over 126-day season. Sampling every 2 weeks from early vegetative stage to harvest showed petiole N of 22,000 ppm on day 40; 6,000 ppm on day 54; 3,000 ppm on day 68; 7,000 ppm on day 96; and 2,000 ppm by day 110. At harvest total tuber N = 1.12%; tuber specific gravity = 1.081 (17.1 % FritoLay solids); and processor acceptable yield = 304 q/ha. The crop removed nearly all applied N.

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Alex B. Daniels, David M. Barnard, Phillip L. Chapman, and William L. Bauerle

The primary goal of this study was to determine the optimum number of substrate moisture sensors needed to accurately determine substrate water content for 10 tree species in a containerized nursery. We examined variation in volumetric water content (VWC, m3·m−3) within containers, within species, among species, and over time. Across time, differences among species were not significant (P = 0.14). However, differences among time periods and the interaction effect between species and time periods were significant (P < 0.001). Seasonal differences in within-species variation were also evident in nine of the 10 species. In an attempt to understand species-specific mechanistic factors that influence within-species variation in VWC, we accounted for physiological and morphological differences affecting transpiration with a spatially explicit mechanistic model, MAESTRA. Neither estimated transpiration rate per whole crown or m2 of leaf area could explain variation in VWC. Based on our results, we recommend species-specific sensor deployment and report sensor quantities that estimate the mean substrate VWC of each species within a confidence interval of ± 5% VWC. Given the economic value of water and its control on biomass production, we conclude that nursery managers can maintain optimal substrate moisture with minimal sensor deployment.

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M. K. Schon and M. P. Compton

Experiments were conducted to determine the optimum levels of N and P for use in greenhouse cucumber (Cucumis sativus L. `Vetomil') production. Plants were grown in rockwool slabs using a double-stem pruning method. Treatment 1 plants were fed 90 ppm N until N in the growing slabs was depleted (averaged <10 ppm); N was then increased to 175 ppm. Treatment 2 and 3 plants were given a constant 175 or 225 ppm N, respectively. Plants in all treatments depleted N in the slabs by three to four weeks after transplant (WAT); N remained low in Treatment 1, but recovered to adequate levels in Treatments 2 and 3. Phosphorus was provided at a constant 50 ppm and was depleted to <10 ppm in the slabs of all three treatments by four WAT. Fruit yield increased significantly with each increase in solution N. Similar results in a second trial indicated that N and/or P may have been limiting factors even at the highest levels tested. Research will continue to determine optimum levels of N and P for maximizing yield.

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Otho S. Wells

Tomato production in high tunnels is very intensive, although relatively low-input. However, optimal use of every square foot of growing space is critical to maximizing returns. Utilizing the basket-weave trellis system, `Ultrasweet' tomatoes were grown in 4 (replicated), 14-foot-wide high tunnels in 4 rows per tunnel at 3.5 ft between rows. In-row spacing of 12, 18, and 24 inches was combined with removal of sideshoots below the first flower cluster: one or three shoots at 18 and 24-inch spacing and none or one at 12-inch spacing. The highest marketable yield per plant was 22 lbs at 24 inches and three sideshoots, while the lowest yield per plant was 13.9 lbs at 12 inches and no sideshoots. The highest yield per sq ft was 4.2 lbs at 12 inches and no sideshoots, while the lowest yield per sq ft was 2.5 lbs at 24 inches and one sideshoot. The yield response to spacing and side-shoot removal was inverse for lbs per plant and lbs per sq ft. There was no difference in fruit size among any of the treatments. In a comparable experiment under field conditions, the highest yield per plant was 12.6 lbs at 24 inches and one sideshoot; and the highest yield per sq ft was 2 lbs at 12 inches and one sideshoot. The percentage of marketable fruit in the tunnels and in the field was 93.0 and 85.1, respectively.

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Maynard E. Bates

Increased production and reduced costs are goals of all plant growers. As a rule, introduction of computer-based control of the plant environment in a well-designed greenhouse will result in yield increases of thirty percent (30%) over other control techniques. A simple model will show how these changes impact profitability.

New technologies in sensors, interfaces, computers, software, and plant growth knowledge are being applied to management of the crop environment. Examples of direct canopy temperature measurement, online plant weight measurement, integration and control of photosynthetic photon flux, and nutrition control will be presented. Integrated process control is replacing setpoint maintenance. Models are being developed for incorporation into environmental control systems. Examples for solar irradiance and crop growth will be demonstrated.

Ultimately expert systems based on artificial intelligence technology will manage crop production in controlled environments. These systems will incorporate information on crop genome, local climate, cultural practices, pests and diseases, economics, and markets, in addition to environmental control. A possible configuration of the hardware and software for such a system will be discussed.

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J. Frick and C.A. Mitchell

Due to its short time to flower (14-18 days) and rapid maturation cycle (50-55 days), dwarf rapid-cycling brassica (Brassica napus) is under consideration as a candidate oilseed crop for NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems program. Recent work has focused on defining a set of optimum environmental conditions which permit increased crop yield in terms of g·m-2d-1 of edible biomass. A wide range of environmental variables have been considered including lamp type, CO2 level, nutrient solution pH, and planting density. In addition, nitrogen nutrition regimes have been manipulated with respect to nitrogen concentration (2 to 30 mM), source (NH4 + and/or NO3 -), and time of stepwise changes in nitrogen level (day 14 to 28). The highest seed oil content (42% DW basis) has been found under limiting nitrogen levels (2 mM). However, the low nitrogen inhibits overall seed production potential. Different cultural techniques also have been compared, including solid-substrate, passive wicking hydroponics versus liquid culture systems. Trials are underway to assess crop growth and development under the “best set” scenario of environmental conditions. At present, the highest seed yield (10.6 g·m-2d-1) has been obtained using solid-substrate hydroponic systems under a combination of metal halide and high-pressure sodium lamps. Constant CO2 enrichment to 1000 μmol·mol-1 did not increase crop yield rate.

Research supported in part by NASA grant NAGW - 2329.