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  • Author or Editor: Jeffrey G. Williamson x
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Pruning is a recommended practice for blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) production and is usually done in the summer in warm subtropical climates with long growing seasons. Summer pruning promotes healthy vegetative growth during the remainder of the growing season; however, research-based recommendations for summer pruning strategies are lacking. The objective of this study was to determine effects of summer pruning timing and intensity on vegetative growth in ‘Jewel’ and ‘Emerald’ southern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum-interspecific hybrid), two cultivars of the primary species grown in subtropical areas. To determine effects of pruning time, 30% of the canopy was removed in June or July. To determine pruning intensity effects, either 30% or 60% of the canopy was removed in June, both followed by shoot tipping in July. Both timing and intensity treatments were compared with a non-pruned control. Lack of pruning in the first year had no negative effects on growth; however, lack of pruning for two or more seasons decreased regrowth volume and shoot length of both cultivars. By the third season, canopy regrowth volume in both cultivars decreased in the non-pruned control compared with the 30% and 60% pruning treatments and compared with the June pruning treatment. Disease infection in ‘Jewel’ was also increased in the non-pruned control compared with these pruning treatments. Summer pruning, regardless of timing or intensity, generally increased vigor of vegetative growth for both cultivars and decreased incidence of leaf disease in ‘Jewel’.

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Field performance of southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. interspecific hybrids) cultivars Emerald, Jewel, and Primadonna derived from softwood cuttings (SW) and tissue culture (TC) was evaluated in Citra and Haines City, FL, in 2010–12. Both fields were planted in Apr. 2010 on sandy soil amended with pine bark. Plant height and width were recorded at both locations, from which plant canopy volume was calculated. Additionally, whole plants were harvested at planting and after the first growing season, after the first fruit harvest, and after the second growing season. Average plant height and width, number of major canes, and total shoot number were determined at each sampling date. Dry weights for roots, crowns, canes, shoots, and leaves were obtained. Although propagation method affected plant canopy volume during the first season, no effects were observed by the end of the second growing season. At planting and after the first and second growing seasons, TC plants of the three cultivars had more major canes. Total shoot number per plant was greater for TC ‘Jewel’ at all dates but ‘Emerald’ TC plants had more shoots only at planting and after the first growing and harvest seasons. Tissue culture resulted in increased plant dry weights of ‘Jewel’ and ‘Emerald’ after the first and second growing seasons. There were no significant differences in total number of shoots or plant dry weight between TC and SW-derived ‘Primadonna’ plants at any point during the study.

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Vaccinium arboreum Marsh is a small tree adapted to low-organic matter soils and is one of the few ericaceous species that tolerates soil pH greater than 6.0. It has a deep root system and is more drought tolerant than cultivated blueberry. The use of V. arboreum as a rootstock for commercial blueberry production has been studied previously in young blueberry plantings. The objective of the current study was to expand on earlier work and evaluate growth, productivity, and tolerance to bacterial leaf scorch (Xylella fastidiosa) in established plantings of own-rooted vs. grafted southern highbush blueberry (SHB). Two field plantings of grafted and own-rooted ‘Meadowlark’ and ‘Farthing’ SHB were established in May 2011: one at the University of Florida–Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, FL, and the other at a commercial blueberry farm in Archer, FL. At both sites, four rootstock–scion combinations were grown in either pine bark-amended or nonamended soil. Canopy volume was greater in grafted compared with own-rooted ‘Meadowlark’ at both locations throughout the 4 years of the study (2015–18), whereas canopy volume in ‘Farthing’ was not consistently different. For both cultivars and both locations, canopy volume was greater on amended compared with nonamended soil. Although canopy growth was not consistently increased in the grafted compared with own-rooted plants, yield was greater in grafted plants of both cultivars at both locations. Cumulative yield over the 4 years was similar between grafted plants grown on both amended and nonamended soil, and was significantly greater than yield of own-rooted plants on nonamended soil, suggesting the use of this rootstock may decrease the requirement for pine bark amendment. In general, grafted plants produced larger berries, with no negative impacts on fruit soluble solids, titratable acidity, or firmness. ‘Meadowlark’—an SHB cultivar that exhibits high sensitivity to bacterial leaf scorch—displayed decreased development of bacterial leaf scorch symptoms when grafted onto V. arboreum compared with own-rooted plants. These results indicate the potential benefits of grafting SHB onto V. arboreum rootstock, particularly under marginal soil conditions. However, a complete economic analysis that also takes into account any differences in longevity between the two systems must be done to determine whether the benefits of using grafting are feasible financially for the grower.

Open Access

Three southern highbush blueberry cultivars (Vaccinium corymbosum hybrids) were mechanically harvested (MH) or hand-harvested (HH) and commercially packed before storage for 14 days at 1 °C in two successive years. MH fruit were softer, had lower ratings for overall appearance, and lost up to 20% more fresh weight than HH fruit after 14 days storage. MH ‘Meadowlark’ had fewer soft fruit (<35%) during storage than either ‘Sweetcrisp’ or ‘Farthing’; however, the latter two cultivars had lower incidences of shrivel and weight loss. Fruit in the 2010 season were more susceptible to bruising than those from the 2009 season; however, soluble solids content (SSC), total titratable acidity (TTA), and ascorbic acid concentration remained constant during storage and between seasons. ‘Meadowlark’ had the highest sugar to acid ratio (25.0). Successful implementation of MH of southern highbush blueberries for fresh market will only be commercially feasible if harvest impacts are further reduced.

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Vaccinium arboreum Marsh is a wild species adapted to high pH (above 6.0) and low organic matter soils (below 2.0%). The use of V. arboreum rootstocks may be a viable option to increase soil adaptation of southern highbush blueberry (SHB) (Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrid) under marginal soil conditions. The objective of this research was to evaluate the vegetative and reproductive traits of ‘Farthing’ and ‘Meadowlark’ SHB own-rooted or grafted onto V. arboreum and grown in pine bark–amended or nonamended soil. The study was conducted from 2012 through 2014 at a research center in Citra, FL, and a grower’s farm in Archer, FL. Vaccinium arboreum rootstock generally induced the same effects in both cultivars. Grafted plants in both soil treatments had reduced canopy growth in the first year after field planting compared with own-rooted plants in amended soil. However, canopy volume of grafted plants was greater than own-rooted plants in nonamended soil and similar to own-rooted plants in amended soil 2 years after field planting for ‘Meadowlark’ and 3 years after planting for ‘Farthing’. Fruit yield was lower in grafted plants compared with own-rooted plants in the first fruiting year (2 years after field planting). By the second fruiting year, yields of grafted plants were similar to or greater than yields of own-rooted plants when grown in nonamended soil, whereas in amended soil, yields of grafted plants were similar to yields of own-rooted plants. Grafted plants had greater mean berry weight, but lower berry firmness; however, the firmness values were still considered acceptable (greater than 160 g⋅mm−1). Internal fruit quality [total soluble solids (TSS) and total titratable acidity (TTA)] was not consistently affected by the rootstock or soil treatments. These results suggest that grafting SHB onto V. arboreum does not increase yield in the establishment years compared with own-rooted SHB when grown in amended soils, but may have the ability to increase yield with no negative effects on fruit quality when grown in nonamended soils.

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Southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrid) cultivation is a major industry in subtropical regions where low winter temperatures are infrequent and inconsistent. In Florida and other subtropical areas, growers use hydrogen cyanamide (HC) applications during endodormancy to mitigate the negative effects of low chill accumulation. Hydrogen cyanamide is a synthetic plant growth regulator that increases and expediates dormancy release and budbreak. However, southern highbush blueberry cultivars differ in their sensitivity to HC. Optimus and Colossus are two recently released cultivars from the University of Florida blueberry breeding program. The effects of HC in these cultivars are unknown. This research aimed to describe responses to HC applications at different rates for these new varieties. Experiments took place in a commercial farm in Waldo, FL, on 3- to 4-year-old deciduous blueberry bushes. HC was applied at rates of 3.8 g·L−1 (0.38%), 5.1 g·L−1 (0.50%), and 6.4 g g·L−1 (0.63%) in ‘Optimus’ and 3.8 g·L−1 (0.38%), 5.1 g·L−1 (0.50%), 6.4 g·L−1 (0.63%), and 7.7 g·L−1 (0.75%) in ‘Colossus’. In both cultivars, the control treatment was not sprayed. Vegetative bud count, and flower bud development, flower bud mortality, and yield were determined. HC application thinned reproductive buds and increased vegetative budbreak. Although seasonal yield was not increased, HC advanced fruit ripening early in the season.

Open Access

There is increasing interest in red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) production worldwide due to increased demand for both fresh and processed fruit. Although the United States is the third largest raspberry producer in the world, domestic demand exceeds supply, and the shortage in fresh market raspberries is filled by imported fruit from Canada during July and August, and from Mexico and Chile during November through May. The raspberry harvest season is well defined and the perishability of the fruit limits postharvest storage. Winter production of raspberry in tropical and subtropical climates could extend the harvest season and allow off-season fruit production during periods of high market prices. The objective of the current study was to examine growth and yield of red raspberry cultivars grown in an annual winter production system in Florida and Puerto Rico. Long cane cultivars were purchased from a nursery in the Pacific northwestern U.S. in 2002 (`Heritage' and `Tulameen'), 2003 (`Tulameen' and `Willamette'), and 2004 (`Tulameen' and `Cascade Delight') and planted in raised beds in polyethylene tunnels in December (Florida) or under an open-sided polyethylene structure in January-March (Puerto Rico). In Florida, harvest occurred from ∼mid-March through the end of May, while in Puerto Rico, harvest occurred from the end of March through early June (except in 2002, when canes were planted in March). Yields per cane varied with cultivar, but ranged from ∼80 to 600 g/cane for `Tulameen', 170 to 290 g/cane for `Heritage', 135 to 350 g/cane for `Willamette', and ∼470 g/cane for `Cascade Delight'. Economic analysis suggests that, at this point, returns on this system would be marginal. However, increasing cane number per unit area and increasing pollination efficiency may increase yields, while planting earlier would increase the return per unit. The key to success may hinge on developing a system where multi-year production is feasible in a warm winter climate.

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Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) production is increasing worldwide, particularly in subtropical growing regions, but information on timing and extent of inflorescence bud development during summer and fall and effects on bloom the next season are limited. The objectives of this study were to determine time of inflorescence bud initiation, describe internal inflorescence bud development, and determine the relationship between internal inflorescence bud development and bloom period the next spring in two southern highbush blueberry [SHB (Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrids)] cultivars. ‘Emerald’ and ‘Jewel’ SHB buds were collected beginning in late summer until shoot growth cessation in late fall for dissection and identification of organ development. Inflorescence bud frequency and number, vegetative and inflorescence bud length and width throughout development, and bloom were also assessed. Inflorescence bud initiation occurred earlier in ‘Emerald’ compared with ‘Jewel’. Five stages of internal inflorescence bud development were defined throughout fall in both cultivars, ranging from a vegetative meristem to early expansion of the inflorescence bud in late fall. ‘Emerald’ inflorescence buds were larger and bloomed earlier, reflecting the earlier inflorescence bud initiation and development. Although inflorescence bud initiation occurred earlier in ‘Emerald’ compared with ‘Jewel’, the pattern of development was not different. Timing of inflorescence bud initiation influenced timing of bloom with earlier initiation resulting in earlier bloom.

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Like everything for the past 2 centuries, agriculture has depended increasingly on fossil fuel energy. Pressures to shift to renewable energy and changes in the fossil fuel industry are set to massively alter the energy landscape over the next 30 years. Two near-certainties are increased overall prices and/or decreased stability of energy supplies. The impacts of these upheavals on specialty crop production and consumption are unknowable in detail but the grand lines of what will likely change can be foreseen. This foresight can guide the research, extension, and teaching needed to successfully navigate a future very unlike the recent past. Major variables that will influence outcomes include energy use in fertilizer manufacture, in farm operations, and in haulage to centers of consumption. Taking six increasingly popular fruit and vegetable crops and the top two horticultural production states as examples, here we use simple proxies for the energy requirements (in gigajoules per ton of produce) of fertilizer, farm operations, and truck transport from Florida or California to New York to compare the relative sizes of these requirements. Trucking from California is the largest energy requirement in all cases, and three times larger than from Florida. As these energy requirements themselves are all fairly fixed, but in future will likely rise in price and/or be subject to interruptions and shortages, this pilot study points to two commonsense inferences: First, that fruit and vegetable production and consumption are set to reposition to more local/regional and seasonal patterns due to increasing expenses associated with fuel, and second, that coast-to-coast produce shipment by truck will become increasingly expensive and difficult.

Open Access