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  • Author or Editor: Gerard Krewer x
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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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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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The majority of U.S. northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and southern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum hybrids) for the fresh market is hand harvested because of the high bruising damage to the fruit caused by current machine harvesters. To reduce bruising, it is important to understand how the harvester’s machine parts interact with the fruit. A miniature instrumented sphere, hereafter referred to as Smart Berry, was developed to mimic a blueberry (Vaccinium species and hybrids) fruit and to quantitatively measure mechanical impacts experienced by a real blueberry fruit during mechanical harvesting. The Smart Berry sensor recorded impacts using three single-axis accelerometers with a maximum sampling frequency of 3 kHz and ±500 g n sensing range. Calibration tests showed that the maximum error of the measurement was 0.53% of the output span. The diameter of the sensor (1 inch) was only half of that for the current smallest instrumented sphere on the market. Used together with a close-up video, the fully calibrated sensors were used to identify and measure mechanical impacts occurring in a commercial rotary blueberry harvester. The data suggested that the catch pan created the largest single mechanical impacts. Thus, reducing the drop height or padding the surface could be effective measures to reduce bruising damage caused by the catch pans. The Smart Berry was also used to compare harvesters with two different detaching mechanisms. The rotary detaching mechanism created significantly fewer and lower-magnitude impacts than the slapper mechanism (P ≤ 0.05). Manual drop tests demonstrated that the impact data recorded by the Smart Berry can be correlated with bruising damage experienced by blueberry fruit. Taken together, the data can be used to improve the design of the current machine harvesters for reduction of bruising damage to blueberry fruit destined for the fresh market, and potentially lead to enhanced highbush blueberry production efficiency in the long run.

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Southeastern peach and pecan orchards weathered hurricanes in the 1980s and 1990s that left long-term effects on tree health and productivity. Pecan trees were affected the most, due to being blown down from strong winds and wet soils or suffering considerable damage to branches and immature nuts resulting in massive nut drops. Premature nut drop triggered or enhanced alternate bearing problems. Cultivar differences were evident in the ability of trees to withstand wind damage, with open-canopy trees being most resistant, but essentially all trees were damaged when they exceeded ≈17m in height. Hurricanes in older, alternate-bearing orchards sometimes broke enough limbs to induce sufficient vegetative regrowth to reestablish an equilibrium between sink (nuts) and source (foliage), thus enhancing yields in subsequent years. Peach trees which were less than 4.5 m tall and already harvested usually did not blow over unless the soil was very wet. However, peach trees were often twisted about the tree axis from the change in wind directions as the hurricane passed over. Afterwards, many trees leaned more than 30 °, especially trees less than 6 to 7 years of age. Root damage was significant and increased when trees were manually repositioned as additional root breakage occured from which these trees often later died. Trees not repositioned but instead retrained to vertical by pruning lived longer. Ambrosia beetles also attacked wind-stressed trees and caused a long-term decline. Slow moving hurricanes significantly damaged peach trees by waterlogging the soil, which killed roots and helped primary pathogens such as Phytophthora sp. to attack the tree crown. This was followed by secondary pathogens like Oxyporous sp., which attacked the internal woody cylinder. Initial trunk damage appeared localized; however, trees continued to die over a number of years. Experience showed that whole orchard removal on severe waterlogged sites was the best economical response.

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Experiments were conducted during 1999 at the Univ. of Georgia Research Farm near Alapaha with the rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) cultivar Brightwell to determine how various harvesting and handling tactics influenced firmness. The research was facilitated by availability of a mechanical harvester and a commercial packing line. Firmness was determined with a FirmTech II firmness tester on fruit samples before and after cold storage. Fruit harvesting methods included machine harvesting in bulk, hand harvesting in bulk, and hand harvesting directly into clam shell containers. Assessment of precooling effects were made by comparing firmness of fruit that were placed immediately over ice after harvest to fruit that remained at ambient temperatures for 24 hours after harvest. Additional measurements were made to discern the effects of grading and sorting on fruit firmness. The data overall indicated that `Brightwell' fruit firmness was “acceptable” regardless of the harvesting and handling methods experienced. However, there were considerable firmness losses caused by the various procedures. The greatest loss in fruit firmness (20% to 25%) was caused by machine harvesting. This was followed by a 15% to 18% loss of firmness due to grading and sorting. Immediate cooling of fruit after harvest resulted in only a 8% to 12% increase in firmness as compared to keeping fruit at ambient temperature for 24 hours. These findings should be useful to growers and packers in targeting segments of their operations that can be manipulated to improve berry firmness and quality for fresh market sales.

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There was an inverse linear relationship between fruit set of ‘Bicentennial’ and ‘Redhaven’ peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] and treatments of 0 − 4000 ppm of (2-chloroethyl)methylbis(phenylmethoxy) silane (CGA 15281) in 1980. Increases in fruit weight occurred at the highest rate of CGA 15281 when compared to lower rates with ‘Bicentennial’, but no significant increase was obtained with ‘Redhaven’. Terminal fruit were larger than basal and middle node position fruits in ‘Bicentennial’. In 1981, all applications of CGA 15281 (0 − 3000 ppm) to ‘Candor’ and ‘Jefferson’ thinned blossoms and resulted in an increase in fruit size, when compared to the hand-thinned control. Treatments of 2250, 2500, and 2750 ppm to ‘Candor’ resulted in adequate thinning and increased yields. Applications at 1500 and 1750 ppm resulted in overthinning and reduced yields in ‘Jefferson’.

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In a series of experiments, gibberellic acid (GA3) was applied to rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei Reade) under field and greenhouse conditions to determine if fruit set could be improved following physical or freeze injury to flowers. In field experiments, physically damaged flowers (i.e., corollas and styles removed, styles only removed, or ovaries lanced) of `Climax' and `Tifblue' treated with GA3 (4% ProGib at 250 mg·liter–1) set substantially more fruit than nontreated, damaged flowers. Under green-house conditions, GA3 applied postfreeze to `Tifblue' and `Brightwell' resulted in increased fruit set compared to unsprayed control plants of the same cultivars. Freeze-damaged plants had substantially reduced fruit set overall but to a much lesser extent for GA3-treated plants than for those not treated with GA3. Individual fruit weight was reduced by GA3 applications, as was berry seediness. Results from these greenhouse and field trials suggest that GA3 can be used to salvage a blueberry crop following a moderate freeze during bloom.

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