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  • Author or Editor: Ed Stover x
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Hundreds of fruit thinning experiments have been reported for various fruits including apple (Malus × domestica) and citrus (Citrus spp.). Unfortunately, very few of these reports attempt to evaluate the economic implications of thinning. Researchers routinely report significant cropload reduction accompanied by an increase in fruit size. Although these are crucial responses to thinning, they are not always associated with an increase in crop value, which is the commercial justification for thinning. The few economic studies summarized in this review illustrate that the economic effects of fruit thinning vary widely, and successful thinning often reduces returns to the grower, at least in the year of treatment. It is important to quantify the economic benefits of thinning and identify croploads that balance the trade-off between yield and fruit size to provide optimal crop value. Future thinning research should report total yields and fruit size distributions to permit economic assessments and comparisons of treatments.

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Off-target deposition of pesticidal spray material is both an economic loss to the grower and a potential environmental problem in southern Florida. This study evaluated the reduction in non-target deposition of copper resulting from different approaches to spraying row-ends in typical Indian River citrus (Citrus) production systems. Using copper as a model pesticide, applications were made in a commercial citrus grove in June and July 2001. Non-target deposition on the water surface within an adjacent drainage canal, as well as on surrounding ground surfaces, was measured using Teflon spray targets. Specific row-end spraying scenarios included: 1) leaving both banks of nozzles on while turning; 2) turning the outside-facing nozzles off (leaving tree-facing nozzles on); 3) turning both banks of nozzles off at the tree trunk; and 4) turning all nozzles off at the end of the foliage of the last tree within the row. Deposition directly onto surface water contained within drainage canals was reduced significantly when nozzles were turned off at the last tree within a row, or when the outside-facing nozzles-only were turned off through the turn. Likewise, deposition was reduced on ground surfaces adjacent to the sprayer under the same scenarios. No differences were observed on ground surfaces on the opposite side of the canal. Significant reductions in direct application of agrichemicals to surface waters within Indian River citrus production groves can be achieved by turning nozzles off when turning from one tree row into the next.

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Sensor-actuated precision spray systems are designed to prevent pesticide delivery unless canopy is detected in the corresponding spray zone. Where frequent gaps are present in the tree row, using orchard sprayers with these systems is likely to lower pesticide costs and reduce off-target deposition. Pesticide savings from use of a sensor-actuated precision spray system were assessed in 27 grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) blocks selected without prior knowledge of grove characteristics, with nine blocks in each of three age categories: 5-6 years, 10 to 12 years and 20 years and older. The sprayer was optimized for each block by opening only those nozzles appropriate for tree size and furrow depth, so that no spray was delivered under or over the canopy of most trees. The same randomly selected 3.0 to 4.7 acre (1.2 to 1.9 ha) section was then sprayed in each block both with and without activation of the precision spray system. In each block, the precision spray system computer also calculated spray savings based on precision sprayer use with no operator nozzle adjustment. Mean savings in spray material from use of the precision sprayer was 6.6% of total conventional output when comparisons were made with optimal sprayer nozzling in each grove versus 18.6% with no operator adjustment of nozzles. In this study, optimizing nozzling provided a larger proportion of spray savings than use of the precision sprayer on 100% of groves 5 to 12 years old and 44% of groves greater than 20 years old. However, in 70% of groves tested, precision spray systems increased spray savings by more than 2% even when using optimal nozzling. Assignment of precision sprayers to groves with greatest potential for savings will likely provide greatest efficiency, while uniform groves forming hedgerow will offer so little potential savings that even the additional cost of weed management will probably not be recovered.

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Two years of field experiments were conducted in eastern New York to evaluate the efficacy of a multi-step thinning approach on reducing crop load (no. fruit per cm2 trunk cross-sectional area) and increasing fruit size of 'Empire' apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.). Applications of Endothall (ET) at 80% bloom, NAA + carbaryl (CB) at petal fall (PF), and Accel™ + CB at 10 mm king fruitlet diameter (KFD), alone and in all combinations, were compared to a nonthinned control and to the application of NAA + CB at 10 mm KFD (commercial standard). In both 1996 and 1997, orthogonal contrasts indicated the multi-step treatment significantly increased fruit size, reduced cropload, and reduced yield compared to single applications. Effects on cropload of consecutive treatments were largely predicted by multiplying effects of individual treatments. Although all thinning treatments except for NAA + CB at PF in 1997 significantly reduced cropload, no single treatment thinned sufficiently to ensure good return bloom. Compared to NAA + CB at 10 mm KFD, multi-step thinning with NAA + CB at PF followed by Accel™ + CB at 10 mm KFD produced bigger fruits in both years, and resulted in a higher percentage of spurs carrying a single fruit in 1996. When fruit size was evaluated after removing the effect of cropload (cropload adjusted fruit weight), NAA + CB at PF, Accel™ + CB at 10 mm, and the two applied sequentially, resulted in greater cropload adjusted fruit weight than the nonthinned control in both years, whereas NAA + CB at 10 mm did not. Contrast analysis of treatments with and without ET showed no significant effect of including ET on fruit size, though total cropload was reduced at P = 0.10 and total yield was reduced (P = 0.03 in 1996 and P = 0.12 in 1997). No deleterious effects from multi-step treatments have been observed. All thinning treatments significantly increased return bloom in 1996 and 1997 compared to the control with little difference observed between treatments. Chemical names used: naphthalene acetic acid (NAA); 1-naphthyl-N-methylcarbamate [carbaryl (CB)]; 6-benzyladenine [BA (Accel™)]; 7-oxabicyclo (2,2,1) heptane-2,3 dicarboxylic acid [ET (Endothall™)]

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Currently, 94% of California fig production is dried or otherwise processed, but there is interest in expanding fresh fig sales. Since cultivars dominating the industry were largely selected for dried fig use, the fig collection of the National Clonal Germplasm Repository (NCGR) in Winters, Calif., was screened for traits of interest in fresh fruit production. For some traits, the bearing collection of 137 accessions was screened, while for most traits, data was collected on a core group of 30 accessions. While current commercial cultivars feature flavors of honey or caramel, some NCGR accessions have bright fruity flavors, reminiscent of berries or citrus, as well as noticeable acidity. Considerable variation was observed for time of maturity. Breba (figs on previous year's wood ripe in June/July) production was markedly greater in `King' than in any other core-group genotype, with ≈3× more fruit per branch than the next most breba-productive variety and 8× higher than the commercial standards. Earliness of ripening in the large collection was most pronounced in `Yellow Neches', `Orphan', and `Santa Cruz Dark', with 3× as many ripe fruit per tree in early August as the earliest commercial standard. Several commercial standards scored among the varieties with greatest late-season production (≈200 fruit per tree ripe after mid-September), comparing favorably with `Zidi', `Panachee', and `Ischia Black', among others. The SSC at commercial ripeness ranged from 13% to 19%, and SSC at tree-ripeness averaged 30% higher than in commercially ripe fruit. Several accessions were observed to have fruit traits that might also contribute to sustained quality through market channels.

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In spring 1999, a commercial NAA (1-naphthaleneacetic acid) preparation for trunk sprout inhibition was compared with a corrugated plastic trunk wrap, aluminum foil wrap, bimonthly hand removal of sprouts, use of NAA preparation plus bimonthly hand removal when sprouts appeared, and a nontreated control. Three recently planted groves on three different rootstocks [`Midsweet' orange (Citrus sinensis)] on Swingle citrumelo (Citrus paradisi × Poncirus trifoliata), `Valencia' orange on Volkamer lemon (Volk, Citrus limon), and `Minneola' tangelo (Citrus paradisi × C. reticulata) on Smooth Flat Seville (SFS, Citrus hybrid) received each of the treatments in a randomized complete block experimental design with trees blocked by initial height and circumference. Every 2 months, sprouts were counted on each tree and removed from the hand removal treatments. After 1 year, all sprouts were removed and counted and height and circumference of trees was determined. Across all experiments, 82% to 100% of nontreated trees produced trunk sprouts and all sprout control methods significantly reduced sprouts per tree. NAA treatments were never significantly less effective at sprout suppression than the wraps at the P = 0.05 level, although in two experiments, wraps were more effective than NAA at P = 0.10. Time of sprout appearance varied between the three experimental blocks. Plastic and foil trunk wraps enhanced development of trunk circumference compared with nontreated controls in `Midsweet'/Swingle and `Valencia'/Volk. Greater trunk circumference resulted from use of wraps versus NAA in all three experiments, which appeared unrelated to differential sprout suppression. In these experiments, it appears that either wraps enhanced tree development beyond the suppression of sprouts or NAA influence on tree metabolism somewhat reduced trunk growth. The economics of the sprout suppression methods are also discussed.

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Wind-induced blemishing known as windscar and lesions from the disease melanose (caused by Diaporthe citri) are two of the most important causes of fresh grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) cullage in Florida. Copper hydroxide fungicides are the primary means of controlling melanose, but high air velocities from passing sprayers have been suspected of increasing windscar. In 1998 and 1999, airblast applications of Cu(OH)2 (1.7 kg·ha-1 Cu) were made at a range of early fruit development stages to a fresh grapefruit orchard in the Indian River region of Florida. These applications supplemented aerial sprays of Cu(OH)2 that were made uniformly across the entire experimental site at biweekly intervals beginning near full bloom. During the commercial harvest period fruit were sampled from three regions (interior, upper exterior, and lower exterior) of each treatment tree and were evaluated for percentage of fruit surface covered by windscar and severity of melanose. Airblast applications did not affect windscar in either year, but windscar was significantly greater from the upper exterior of the canopy, which is likely to experience the highest natural wind velocities. From these data, it appears unlikely that airblast applications significantly contribute to windscar of Indian River grapefruit. In 1998, no trees receiving airblast applications had significantly lower melanose incidence than the trees sprayed only via aircraft; however, trees receiving four airblast applications were scored as having higher apparent melanose on exterior samples than trees receiving most other treatments. This is consistent with high levels of Cu injury on these fruit which can superficially resemble melanose. Following treatment in 1999, trees receiving four airblast applications of Cu(OH)2 had significantly lower melanose scores than trees receiving either no or only early airblast applications, but were not significantly different from trees receiving a single spray 5.5 weeks postbloom. A computer model, which estimates Cu levels on fruit based on fruit growth, rainfall, and application parameters, indicated exterior fruit receiving four airblast sprays had >3 μg·cm-2 [Cu] for 40 days in 1998 but only 10 days in 1999, which reflects increased probability of Cu damage in 1998. It appears that aerial application supplemented by airblast merits further study as an economical means of melanose control.

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Parts I and II of this series revealed substantial opportunities for improving spraying of Indian River citrus (Citrus spp.). In this segment of our work we develop guidelines for growers to select the spray parameters providing an optimal balance between efficiency and efficacy while minimizing environmental contamination.

It is proposed that these guidelines could be codified in a simple expert system to make them easier to use. We propose that understanding limiting conditions may be the key to choosing spray options. Wind is a major factor influencing spray deposition and offtarget drift. Based on weather records, wind speeds below 5 mph (8.0 km·h-1) are only routinely observed from 2000 HR until 0800 HR, making night spraying a good choice for low-volume applications. The importance of adjusting sprayer set-up for individual groves is demonstrated, with economic estimates of the cost of failing to make these adjustments. Routine use of careful sprayer adjustments is also likely to reduce off-target drift. Improvements in equipment and spray chemicals are also discussed. Use of non-orchard buffer areas and/or windbreaks appear to offer considerable opportunity for reducing off-site spray movement.

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