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  • Author or Editor: Gerard Krewer x
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`Climax' blueberry is a major cultivar in Georgia, but because of its excessively low chilling requirement and early blooming habit, it has a poor cropping history in recent years due to spring freezes. Research was initiated to explore the potential for ethephon to delay bloom, without delaying ripening too much. In 1997-1998 a treatment of 200 ppm ethephon applied on 3 Nov. or 400 ppm applied on 17 Nov. delayed bloom 5 to 7 days compared to the control. There was no significant difference between the control and the ethephon treatment in flower bud density or fruit density in the spring. In 1998-1999 ethephon applications at 200 and 400 ppm were applied once or twice 2 weeks apart starting on 5 Oct. and ending 19 Nov. A bloom delay of about 7 days was achieved with most ethephon applications. However, an application of 400 ppm on 19 Oct. and 2 Nov. delayed bloom about 14 days compared to the control. There was a trend toward delayed fruit ripening with the most-effective bloom delay treatments, but the extent of delayed ripening was minimal. Berry weight was not effected by ethephon treatments.

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Recent research in Georgia indicated gibberellic acid (GA3) could possibly be used to induce fruit set of freeze damaged rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei) blooms. This research was conducted to determine the subfreezing temperature limit at which GA3 could be expected to be of use in salvaging a crop with freeze-damaged flowers. Rabbiteye blueberries with flower buds at stages 5 to 6 of development (fully elongated corollas and open blooms) were exposed to temperatures of 0, –1, –3, and –4.5°C in growth chambers to simulate overnight freezing events. After cold exposure, plants were placed in a greenhouse with a hive of bumblebees. Half of the plants were treated with GA3 and half were not. The number of flowers and subsequent fruit were recorded in order to calculate fruit set. Temperatures of –1°C and below caused fruit set resulting from pollination by bees to decline compared to control plants; whereas, flowers treated with GA3 had fruit set comparable to control plants down to –3°C. Plants exposed to –3°C had 50% to 80% fruit set when treated with GA3 compared to 5% to 19% fruit set for untreated plants. Temperatures of –4.5°C caused severe flower damage, and fruit set by pollination or GA3 was very poor (<2%). These results indicate that GA3 should be useful in salvaging a blueberry crop exposed to temperatures of – 1 to –3.5°C during bloom.

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`Gulfking' and `Gulfcrest' peaches are jointly released for grower trials by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. Trees of `Gulfking' and `Gulfcrest' produce an attractive, sweet-tasting, yellow and non-melting flesh fruit intended for the fresh fruit market. They are expected to produce fruit with tree-ripened aroma and taste while retaining firmness for longer shelf life than fruit from conventional melting-flesh cultivars. Trees of `Gulfking' reach full bloom most seasons in mid-February in lower southern Georgia and are estimated to require 350 chill units. We expect this new peach to be adapted in areas where `Flordaking' has been successfully grown. Fruit ripen 73 to 80 days from full bloom, typically in early May, usually with `Flordaking' in southern Georgia. The fruit are large, ranging from 105 to 130 grams. Commercially ripe fruit exhibit 80% to 90% red (with moderately fine darker red stripes) over a deep yellow to orange ground color. Fruit shape is round with a recessed tip. Pits are medium small and have little tendency to split even when crop loads are low. Trees of `Gulfcrest' are estimated to require 525 chill units. This is based on full bloom consistently occurring with `Sunfre' nectarine at Attapulgus, Ga. where full bloom occurs most seasons in early-March. Fruit ripen 62 to 75 days from full bloom, typically in early to mid-May, usually a few days after `Flordacrest' in southern Georgia. The fruit are medium-large, averaging about 105 g. Commercially ripe fruit exhibit 90% to 95% red over a deep yellow to orange ground color. Fruit shape is round with a recessed tip. Pits are medium small and have little tendency to split even when crop loads are low.

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Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei R.) flowers often suffer slight freeze damage that prevents fertilization and fruit development. To determine if gibberellic acid (GA3) might be useful in rescuing freeze-damaged flowers the following treatments were applied before anthesis to two cultivars at different locations: 1) undamaged control, 2) approximately two-thirds of the corolla and most of the style removed, 3) approximately half of the style removed, and 4) ovules lanced with an insect pin by driving it through the equator of the undeveloped berry until the point came out the other side. Half the bushes were not sprayed, and half were sprayed with GA3 (312 ppm, v/v) the night following treatment. `Climax' at Chula, Ga., had good fruit set for treatment 1 with and without GA3 (70% to 85%). Good fruit set also occurred for treatment 2, 3, and 4 where GA3 was applied (47% to 54%), but poor fruit set without GA3 (4% to 16%). `Tifblue' at Chula had significantly better fruit set for treatment 1 with GA3 (54% vs. 27%). Excellent fruit set occurred for treatment 2, 3, and 4 where GA3 was applied (81% to 96%), and poor fruit set without GA3 (6% to 7%). `Tifblue' fruit set by GA3 sized better than `Climax' fruit set by GA3. The experiments provide corroborative evidence that flowers that have suffered freeze damage to the stigma, style, corolla, and perhaps ovules can be set with GA3.

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Plants of `Brightwell' and `Tifblue' rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) were subjected to 0, -1, -3, or -4.5 °C for 1 hour during flowering. After treatment, half of the plants were exposed to bees (Bombus sp.) only, and half were exposed to bees and received applications of GA3. Fruit set of both `Brightwell' and `Tifblue' pollinated by bees declined sharply after exposure to -1 °C for 1 hour, but there was no visible damage to corollas, styles, and ovaries. Fruit set of GA3-treated plants of both cultivars equaled that of control plants (plants having no cold exposure) at temperatures ≥+-3 °C. Both pollinated and GA3-treated plants had ≤2% fruit set after exposure of flowers to -4.5 °C. Both prefreeze and postfreeze applications of GA3 were beneficial for fruit set. Assessment of flower part damage at the different temperatures indicated corollas were most sensitive to freeze damage, followed by styles, and then ovaries. Results suggest fertilization and fruit set of pollinated rabbiteye blueberries can be greatly impaired by even mild freezes (-1 to -2 °C), whereas, appropriately timed applications of GA3 can result in little reduction in fruit set even after moderate freezes (-3 to -4 °C) of blueberries during bloom. Chemical name used: gibberellic acid (GA3).

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Sixteen cultivars of citrus (Citrus spp.) and close citrus relatives were planted in Savannah, Georgia to evaluate their potential as fruiting landscape trees in an area that routinely experiences minimum temperatures of 15 to 20 °F (-9.4 to -6.7 °C) during winter. Three to six trees of each cultivar were planted in 1998, and stem dieback and defoliation data were collected in 1999, 2001, and 2002. During the 4 years of the study, air temperatures fell below 32 °F (0.0 °C) 27 to 62 times per season, with absolute minima ranging from 13 to 18 °F (-10.6 to -7.8 °C), depending on year. In general, kumquats (Fortunella spp.), represented by `Meiwa', `Nagami', and `Longevity', were completely killed (or nearly so) in their first year in the field after air temperature minima of 13.5 °F (-10.28 °C). Others experiencing 100% dieback were `Meyer' lemon (Citrus limon × C. reticulata) and `Eustis' limequat (C. aurantifolia × Fortunella japonica), which were tested twice during the study. Kumquat hybrids, including procimequat [(C. aurantifolia × F. japonica) × F. hindsii), `Sinton' citrangequat [(C. sinensis × Poncirus trifoliata) × unknown kumquat], `Mr John's Longevity' citrangequat [(C. sinensis × P. trifoliata) × F. obovat], razzlequat (Eremocitrus glauca × unknown kumquat), and `Nippon' orangequat (C. unshiu × F. crassifolia) survived freezing, but all experienced at least some defoliation and stem dieback. `Owari' satsuma (C. unshiu), `Changsha' mandarin (C. reticulata), nansho daidai (C. taiwanica) and ichang papeda (C. ichangensis) experienced only minor stem dieback but substantial defoliation in most years, except that ichang papeda was substantially damaged in the last year of the study. Seven cultivars produced fruit at least once during their first 4 years: nansho daidai, ichang papeda, `Nippon' orangequat, `Mr John's Longevity' citrangequat, `Owari' satsuma, `Changsha' mandarin, and procimequat. Based on cold hardiness, fruiting, and growth characteristics, `Owari' satsuma, `Changsha' mandarin, `Mr John's Longevity' citrangequat, and `Nippon' orangequat provided the hardiest, most precocious and desirable fruiting landscape trees in this study.

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Observations in controlled field experiments over 5 years indicated that imidacloprid, applied as a soil drench around the trunks of peach (Prunus persica), nectarine (P. persica var. nectarine) and japanese plum (P. salicinia) trees at planting and in the early spring and mid-summer for two subsequent seasons (0.7 g/tree a.i.), slowed the development of symptoms of phony peach disease (PPD) and plum leaf scald (PLS) (Xylella fastidiosa) in the trees. After 3.5 years, the percentage of peach trees showing PPD symptoms was 8.5% for the imidacloprid-treated trees compared to 34.3% for untreated trees. After 4.5 years, the percentage of peach trees showing PPD symptoms was 13.1% in the treated trees and 71.4% in the untreated trees. After 3.5 years, nectarine trees in untreated and treated plots showed PPD symptoms in 8.3% and 0.9% of the trees, respectively. After 4.5 years, PPD symptoms in nectarine were found in 32.3% of the untreated trees and 8.5% of the treated trees. Development of PLS disease in plum was also slowed by the trunk drench with imidacloprid in two japanese plum varieties. After 3.5 years, dieback was observed in 55% of the twigs of untreated and 23% of the twigs of treated trees of `Au Rosa' plum and 33% of the twigs of untreated and 12% of the twigs of treated trees of `Santa Rosa' plum.

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Northern highbush (NH) blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and southern highbush (SH) blueberry (V. corymbosum hybrids) have fruit that vary in firmness. The SH fruit is mostly hand harvested for the fresh market. Hand harvesting is labor-intensive requiring more than 500 hours/acre. Rabbiteye blueberry (V. virgatum) tends to have firmer fruit skin than that of NH blueberry and has been mostly machine harvested for the processing industry. Sparkleberry (V. arboreum) has very firm fruit. With the challenges of labor availability, efforts are under way to produce more marketable fruit using machine harvesting. This could require changing the design of harvesting machine and plant architecture, and the development of cultivars with fruit that will bruise less after impact with hard surfaces of machines. The objectives of this study were to determine the fruit quality of machine-harvested SH blueberry, analyze the effect of drop height and padding the contact surface on fruit quality, investigate the effect of crown restriction on ground loss, and determine the effect of plant size on machine harvestability. The fruit of ‘Farthing’, ‘Scintilla’, ‘Sweetcrisp’, and several selections were either hand harvested or machine harvested and assessed during postharvest storage for bruise damage and softening. Machine harvesting contributed to bruise damage in the fruit and softening in storage. The fruit of firm-textured SH blueberry (‘Farthing’, ‘Sweetcrisp’, and selection FL 05-528) was firmer than that of ‘Scintilla’ after 1 week in cold storage. Fruit drop tests from a height of 20 and 40 inches on a plastic surface showed that ‘Scintilla’ was more susceptible to bruising than that of firm-textured ‘Farthing’ and ‘Sweetcrisp’. When the contact surface was cushioned with a foam sheet, bruise incidence was significantly reduced in all SH blueberry used in the study. Also, the fruit dropped 40 inches developed more bruise damage than those dropped 20 inches. Ground loss during machine harvesting was reduced from 24% to 17% by modifying the rabbiteye blueberry plant architecture. Further modifications to harvesting machines and plant architecture are necessary to improve the quality of machine-harvested SH and rabbiteye blueberry fruit and the overall efficiency of blueberry (Vaccinium species and hybrids) harvesting machines.

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Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei) is the most important type of blueberry grown in Georgia. This species is classified as a highbush blueberry type, but is distinctively different from highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum) in its ability to withstand high temperatures and low-organic–matter soils. However, rabbiteye blueberries, like other fruit crops, are subject to price and yield fluctuation. These volatilities depend on several factors, including the cultivar produced and sold, locality, aggregate productivity, targeted market, and timing. As a result, profit margin is hard to determine. The objective of this study was to estimate economic returns using risk-rated budget analysis for rabbiteye blueberry under Georgia conditions. The first-year establishment and maintenance cost of growing rabbiteye blueberry in Georgia was estimated at $5022.04/acre. Total harvesting and marketing cost in the second year was $719.44/acre. In the third year, total variable and fixed cost was $3487.50/acre. In the full production year (fourth year), the cost was estimated at $4671.17/acre. The compounded and recaptured establishment annual cost was $2736.11/acre. The risk-rated expected returns over total costs 63% of the time were $679.00/acre. The chances of making a profit were 77% and the base budgeted net revenue was $369.00/acre. The total budgeted cost was $0.94/lb. The estimated annual total fixed machinery cost was $698.00/acre. The total annual cost of drip irrigation was $161.15/acre.

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Southern highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum × V. darrowii hybrids) are a rapidly emerging crop with a bright future in Georgia; however, blueberries, like other fruit crops, are subject to price and yield fluctuation. These volatilities depend on several factors, including the cultivar produced and sold (i.e., fresh or frozen), locality, aggregate productivity, targeted market, and timing. As a result, profit margin is hard to determine. The objective of this study was to estimate total costs of cultivating southern highbush blueberries in soil under Georgia conditions and determine profitability, if any. Although there are several methods of profit determination, the risk-rated method was adopted for this study. The first-year establishment and maintenance cost of growing southern highbush blueberry in soil in Georgia using high organic matter (greater than 3%) spodic-type or allied sand soil series with supplemental pine bark incorporated was estimated at $9585.55/acre. The second-year establishment and maintenance cost of growing, harvesting, and marketing was $3691.99/acre less return from receipts of $2375.00/acre equal to $1316.99/acre. The third-year establishment and maintenance cost was $7068.20/acre. The total returns for the same year were $9500.00/acre. Subtracting the cost of $7068.20 from $9500.00 gives a net return of $2431.80/acre. The fourth-year cost, which was considered to be the first year of actual full production, was estimated at $13,547.35/acre. The compounded and recaptured establishment annual costs were $2176.43/acre. The risk-rated expected returns over total costs 66% of the time were $5452.65/acre. The chances of making profit were 92% and the base-budgeted net revenue was $6456.00/acre. Total budgeted cost was $3.38/lb. The estimated annual total fixed machinery cost was $290.41/acre. Total annual cost of solid set irrigation was $657.81/acre.

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