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  • Author or Editor: Gregory A. Lang x
  • HortTechnology x
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Sweet cherries (Prunus avium L.) can be one of the most profitable tree fruits cultivated in temperate climates. While cherry trees grow naturally to relatively tall heights (≈35 ft [≥10 m]), new size-controlling cherry rootstocks similar to those used in high-density apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) orchards are now a reality. The Gisela (GI.) and Weiroot (W.) series from Germany, the Gran Manier (GM.) series from Belgium, the P-HL series from Czech Republic, `Tabel Edabriz' from France, and others of international origin are at various stages of scientific and field testing in North America, with some now being used for commercial fruit production. These stocks confer several advantageous traits besides vigor control, including precocious fruiting and high productivity. While these beneficial traits are exciting, serious problems also have been documented on occasion, such as small fruit size and tree decline. As many of these rootstocks are interspecific Prunus L. hybrids, might there be significant limitations for fruit quality and orchard longevity? What is known about their tolerance to various soil types and/or climatological stresses? What is known about their susceptibilities to pathogens and pests? Further, with the U.S. and worldwide orchard area planted to fresh-market sweet cherries already expanding to record levels throughout the 1990s and a time-honored agricultural tendency toward overproduction until grower profits are minimized (e.g., recent international apple markets), what might be the future impact of such precocious, productive rootstocks on sweet cherry profitability and sustainable production? This overview addresses these topics, providing some answers and some areas for future scientific investigation and industry discussion.

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High tunnel production systems typically use horticultural crops that are annually or biennially herbaceous, high in value, short in stature, and quick to produce. At best, tree fruits may fit only one of these criteria–high value. Sweet cherry (Prunus avium) may command high enough values in premium market niches to make high tunnel production strategies worth attempting. Furthermore, sweet cherry production can be a risky endeavor, even in optimal climates, due to the potentially devastating effects of preharvest rain that cause fruit cracking. Consequently, environmental modification by tunnels in regions like the Great Lakes provides a significant risk reduction. Additional potential benefits, such as protection from frosts, diseases, insects, wind scarring, etc., add further production value. Multi-bay high tunnels were constructed in 2005 at two Michigan State University experiment stations, over established and newly planted sweet cherry trees on dwarfing rootstocks, to study and optimize the effects of production environment modification on vegetative and reproductive growth, marketing season extension, and protection of cherries from diseases, insect pests, and/or physiological disorders. Results with tunnels thus far include premium fruit quality and high crop value; increased leaf size and terminal shoot growth; decreased radial trunk growth; decreased chemical pesticide inputs; decreased incidence of cherry leaf spot (Blumeriella jaapii) and bacterial canker (Pseudomonas syringae); increased incidence of powdery mildew (Podosphaera clandestina); inconclusive effects on brown rot (Monolinia fructicola); no or reduced infestation by plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) or cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis cingulata); dramatically reduced japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) damage; and increased black cherry aphid (Myzus cerasi) and two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) populations.

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The postharvest performance of early ripening southern highbush blueberries `Sharpblue' and `Gulfcoast' was evaluated under storage and simulated retail conditions. In general, `Gulfcoast' fruit were 28% heavier than those of `Sharpblue', which had a higher percent soluble solids concentration (SSC) and lower titratable acidity (TA). Quality loss, as indexed by fresh weight, percent decayed fruit, or changes in SSC, pH, or TA, was insignificant in first-harvest fruit of either cultivar when kept in storage (2C) for up to 7 days. Transfer of fruit stored at 2C for 3 days to simulated retail conditions at 21C for 4 days significantly increased fresh weight loss and decay, but not beyond levels deemed unmarketable. Second-harvest fruit were smaller than first-harvest fruit, and those of `Sharpblue' fruit were more prone to decay. However, storage quality of both cultivars was acceptable through 11 days at 2C. Retail quality, as influenced by decay incidence, was acceptable after 3 days at 2C plus 4 days at 21C, but not after 3 days at 2C plus 8 days at 21C. Overall, fruits of these early ripening southern highbush blueberry cultivars performed well under postharvest conditions and are suitable for expanding production of premium fresh blueberries by growers in the Gulf coastal plains.

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