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Matthew W. Fidelibus

Growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley produced >25% of the world’s raisins in 2012, with a farm-gate value of >$590 million, making the United States the leading global producer of raisins. California’s traditional raisin-making method is a laborious process in which clusters of grapes (Vitis vinifera) are harvested by hand onto paper trays, which are left in the vineyard to dry. The drying fruit may need to be turned or rolled, tasks requiring manual labor, and the trays of dried raisins are also picked up by hand. Most California raisins continue to be made in this way, but in recent years, the declining availability and increasing cost of labor has prompted many growers to implement one of two mechanized production systems, “continuous tray” (CT) or “dry-on-vine” (DOV). In CT systems, machines are used to pick the berries, lay them onto a tray, and pick up the dried raisins. The CT system could be considered a short-term strategy: it is compatible with existing conventional ‘Thompson Seedless’ raisin vineyards and has been widely adopted. The DOV system could be considered a medium-term strategy: it is best suited for vineyards specifically designed for DOV, with early ripening grapevine cultivars on expansive trellis systems, which ensures timely drying, and capitalizes on the fact that sunlit row middles are not needed for fruit drying. Grapevine breeding programs are currently working toward the development of raisin grape cultivars with fruitful basal nodes, with fruit that dry naturally upon ripening. This is a long-term strategy to further reduce labor needs by enabling mechanical pruning in winter and eliminating the need for cane severance in the summer.

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Matthew W. Fidelibus and Frederick S. Davies

In Florida, gibberellic acid (GA3) is applied to citrus in the late summer or early fall to reduce senescence-related peel disorders of fresh fruit and to increase juice yield of processing oranges. Heavy rainfall may occur daily during this time that could reduce the efficacy of GA3 sprays. Experiments were conducted in 1998-99 and 1999-2000 to test the effect of timed “wash off” treatments on the peel color and peel puncture resistance (PPR) of `Hamlin' orange (Citrus sinensis [L.] Osb.) fruit that were previously treated with GA3. In Oct. 1998 and 1999, the canopy of 14- or 15-year-old trees were sprayed to runoff (≈10 L) with GA3 (45 g a.i./ha) and a non-ionic surfactant (Silwet, 0.05%). For the next 4 (1998-99) or 5 (1999-2000) h, three different GA3-treated trees each hour were then sprayed with ≈20 L of tap water to simulate rainfall that might remove or dilute the GA3. An additional three trees did not receive a GA3 or a washoff treatment. Fruit were harvested in Nov. 1998 and Jan. 1999 and Dec. 1999 and Jan. 2000 and evaluated for PPR and color. Data were subjected to regression analysis to determine the relationship between peel variables and time until washoff. In 1998-99, PPR and peel hue (level of green color) increased linearly with time until washoff, indicating that some GA3 uptake was still occurring after 4 h. In 1999-2000, PPR and hue increased linearly until about 3 h before washoff. Therefore, heavy rainfall within 3 to 4 h of application may reduce GA3 effectiveness, even when a surfactant is used.

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Matthew W. Fidelibus and Chris A. Martin

Four AM fungal isolates (Glomus sp.) from disparate edaphic conditions were screened for effects on leaf gas exchange of `Volkamer' lemon (Citrus volkameriana Ten. and Pasq.) plants of similar size under conditions of increased soil water deficit stress and recovery from stress. Mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal plants were grown in 8-L containers for 10 weeks under well-watered conditions in a glasshouse and then subjected to three consecutive soil-drying episodes of increased severity (mean soil water tension reached –0.02, –0.06, and –0.08 MPa, respectively). Gas exchange measurements were made on the last day of each soil-drying episode. Plants were irrigated after each soil-drying episode, and measurements were repeated on the following 2 recovery days, when soil remained moist. All measurements were made at mid-day with a LI-COR 6200 portable photosynthesis system. The effect of AM fungi on leaf gas exchange fluxes varied depending on the isolate and the intensity of soil water stress. Leaf gas exchange fluxes always were highest for plants colonized by Glomus mosseae (Nicol. & Gerde.) isolate 114C, except during the third soil-drying episode, when all mycorrhizal plants had similar, and lower, gas exchange fluxes compared with non-mycorrhizal plants. During recovery from the third soil-drying episode, Glomus mosseae isolate 51C had lower leaf gas exchange fluxes compared with all other plants. Our results show that AM fungi can alter leaf gas exchange fluxes of citrus, under conditions of optimal P nutrition, in an isolate-specific manner.

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M. Cecilia Peppi and Matthew W. Fidelibus

Forchlorfenuron (CPPU), a synthetic cytokinin, applied after fruit set increases the size and firmness of table grapes (Vitis vinifera L.) beyond what is possible without CPPU treatment. However, treatment with CPPU may inhibit coloring of ‘Flame Seedless’ grapes, limiting its use in growing areas where color has been consistently poor. In contrast, application of abscisic acid (ABA) to ‘Flame Seedless’ grapes may cause fruit softening, which is undesirable, but its primary effect is to increase anthocyanin content and fruit color. Thus, we hypothesized that application of CPPU followed by ABA might increase the size and firmness of ‘Flame Seedless’ grapes without excessively inhibiting coloring. Grapes were treated with 0 or 20 g·ha−1 CPPU (applied at fruit set) and 0, 300, or 600 mg·L−1 ABA (applied at veraison) in 2005 and with 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20 g·ha−1 CPPU and 0, 200, 400, or 600 mg·L−1 ABA in 2006. Both plant growth regulators (PGRs) increased berry mass, but grapes treated with CPPU were as firm, or firmer, than nontreated grapes, whereas those treated with ABA were of similar or lesser firmness. Treatment with CPPU generally reduced soluble solids and red berry color, whereas treatment with ABA reduced titratable acidity and increased red color. The PGRs did not interact to affect any of the fruit quality variables measured, so beneficial effects of CPPU or ABA were apparent whether the grapes were treated with either or both PGRs. Thus, the combined use of CPPU and ABA may be a desirable cultural practice for ‘Flame Seedless’.

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Frederick S. Davies, Craig A. Campbell and Matthew W. Fidelibus

It is desirable to mix gibberellic acid (GA3) with other commonly applied materials to reduce application cost. However, applying GA3 with some compounds can reduce its efficacy or cause phytotoxicity. We conducted experiments in 1997-98 and 1998-99 to determine if GA3 (ProGibb) can be tank-mixed with fosetyl-Al (Aliette), or avermectin (Agri-Mek) and oil, without reducing GA3 efficacy. In addition, we compared Silwet and Kinetic adjuvants for enhancement of GA3 efficacy. Five tank mixes were tested along with a nonsprayed control. These included 1) GA3; 2) GA3 and Silwet; 3) GA3 and Kinetic; 4) GA3 Silwet, and fosetyl-Al; and 5) GA3, Silwet, avermectin, and oil. All compounds were applied at recommended concentrations. In September 1997 or October 1998, about 2.5 gal (9.5 L) of each tank mix was applied with a hand sprayer to 14- or 15-year-old `Hamlin' orange (Citrus sinensis) trees on sour orange (Citrus aurantium) rootstock. Peel puncture resistance (PPR), color, and juice yield (% juice weight) were evaluated monthly between December 1997 and March 1998, and December 1998 and January 1999. In both years, fruit of treated trees usually had higher PPR and were less yellow in color than fruit from control trees. There were tank mix effects on juice yield in January of both seasons and February 1998. Gibberellic acid was most effective at enhancing juice yield when applied singly or with avermectin and oil. In both seasons there were dates when GA3 applied singly was superior at enhancing juice yield than a tank mix of GA3, Silwet and fosetyl-Al, indicating that GA3 was incompatible with fosetyl-Al. Neither Kinetic nor Silwet adjuvants consistently enhanced GA3 effects on peel quality or juice yield over GA3 alone.

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Matthew W. Fidelibus, Karen E. Koch and Frederick S. Davies

We investigated the effect of gibberellic acid (GA3) application before color break on peel color, fruit respiration, and soluble sugars in different tissues of ‘Hamlin’ sweet orange [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.] fruit to test the hypothesis that GA3 influence on peel color might be mediated by sugars. Fruit were sprayed with GA3 (45 g·ha−1 a.i.) in early October of 2 consecutive years. Peel color, whole-fruit respiration, and fructose, glucose, and sucrose levels were quantified in flavedo and albedo tissues when nontreated fruit were still green, at precolor break, color break, and when peels were fully yellow. Fruit treated with GA3 remained more green-colored than nontreated fruit, and differences between them were detectable by 12 or 21 days after treatment (Years 1 and 2, respectively). Fruit respiration rates were similar in both groups regardless of peel color. Effects of GA3 on color transition were evident only after significant differences emerged in flavedo glucose (both years) and fructose (second year) levels. Moreover, there was a linear, inverse relationship between green peel color and flavedo fructose (r 2 = 0.68, first year; 0.72, second year) and glucose levels (r 2 = 0.60, first year; 0.50, second year). In contrast, sucrose levels in the flavedo showed a less consistent relationship with peel color. The GA3 treatment maintained a descending sucrose gradient from the albedo to the flavedo that was typical of young, photosynthetically active fruit. This gradient dissipated during peel color change of nontreated fruit. These data support the hypothesis that soluble sugars could be contributing effectors of the GA3-mediated delay in chloroplast-to-chromoplast conversions by the orange flavedo.

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M. Cecilia Peppi, Matthew W. Fidelibus and Nick Dokoozlian

Poor coloration of red grapes grown in warm regions is a frequent problem that decreases production efficiency. Most table grape growers use ethephon to improve color, but its influence on color development is erratic, and it may reduce berry firmness. Application of S-abscisic acid (ABA) to grapes can increase the anthocyanins in their skins, but no protocols have been established regarding its potential commercial use. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of ABA and ethephon treatments on fruit quality characteristics, including those related to firmness and color, on `Flame Seedless' grapes (Vitis vinifera L.) in several experiments over three consecutive seasons. Abscisic acid had few effects on berry weight or juice composition, but it increased berry softening and skin anthocyanin concentrations. The effect of ABA on berry firmness was similar to ethephon. With respect to skin anthocyanin concentration and fruit color characteristics, 300 mg·L–1 ABA applied at veraison was superior to the other ABA concentrations and to ethephon applied at any of the times tested. Moreover, any concentration of ABA between 75 and 300 mg·L–1 applied after veraison improved color better than ethephon applied at the same time. There was a highly significant inverse curvilinear relationship between skin anthocyanin concentration and the lightness and hue of the berries. Anthocyanin concentrations between 0.01 and 0.04 mg·cm–2 had little effect on berry lightness and hue, so researchers should consider measuring color, not just anthocyanins, when evaluating the quality of red table grapes.

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Matthew W. Fidelibus, Kimberley A. Cathline and Jacqueline K. Burns

Effective abscission agents that decrease fruit detachment force (FDF) are sought by the California raisin industry to improve the continuous tray mechanical harvesting method. Such agents might also enable mechanical harvest of table and wine grapes (Vitis vinifera L.), but few agents are known to be effective for grape. Thus, methyl jasmonate (MeJA) and six other compounds known to stimulate abscission of other fruits were screened for their ability to reduce FDF of mature ‘Thompson Seedless’ grapes. Most compounds tested reduced FDF to some extent, but MeJA was particularly effective. Solutions containing between 45 and 4500 ppm MeJA reduced FDF by at least 50% to 85% compared with nontreated fruits. Application of 2250 and 4500 ppm MeJA to ‘Thompson Seedless’ vines caused 25% to 50% fruit drop, respectively, within 10 d after treatment (DAT). The efficacy of MeJA was verified in a second experiment in which solutions of 0, 1125, 2250, or 4500 ppm MeJA were applied to clusters of ‘Crimson Seedless’ grapes; at 14 DAT, FDF declined as a linear function of MeJA applied. The grapes did not abscise, but berries treated with 2250 to 4500 ppm MeJA had slightly lower soluble solids than nontreated fruits. Solutions of 0 or 4500 ppm MeJA applied to clusters of ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ and ‘Merlot’ grapevines reduced FDF by 66% and 75%, respectively. Fruit drop was estimated to be less than 10%. Thus, a solution containing up to 4500 ppm MeJA may be an effective abscission agent to facilitate mechanical harvest of ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ or ‘Merlot’.

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Matthew W. Fidelibus, Stephen J. Vasquez and S. Kaan Kurtural

California table grape (Vitis vinifera) growers cover the canopies of late-season varieties with plastic (polyethylene) covers to shield the fruit from rain. Green- or white-colored covers are commonly used, but there is lack of information whether either cover might be preferable based on canopy microclimate or fruit quality. In late September, ‘Redglobe’ (in 2011) and ‘Autumn King’ (in 2012) table grapevines were covered with green or white plastic, or left uncovered, and canopy microclimate, fungal and bacterial rot incidence, and fruit yield and quality at harvest, and after postharvest storage, were evaluated. Green covers were more transparent and less reflective than white covers, and daily maximum temperature difference in the top center of the canopies of grapevine with green covers was consistently >5 °C than that of grapevine subjected to other treatments, but covers had little effect on temperatures in the fruit zones, which were not enveloped by covers. Effects on relative humidity (RH) depended on location within the canopy and time of day; RH peaked in early morning and was at a minimum in late afternoon. All cover treatments had relatively similar peak RH in south-facing fruit zones and the top center of the canopy. However, in the north-facing fruit zone, vines with green covers had higher RH at night than vines subjected to other treatments. Both covers consistently reduced evaporative potential in the top center of the canopy, but not in fruit zones. Treatment effects on condensation beneath the covers were inconsistent, possibly due to differences in canopy size, variety, or season, but south-facing cover surfaces generally had less condensation than the top or north-facing surfaces. About 0.5 inch of rain fell on 5 Oct. 2011, but no rain occurred during the 2012 experiment. In 2011, green covers delayed fruit maturation slightly, but not in 2012. Covers did not affect vineyard rot incidence, the number of boxes of fruit harvested, or postharvest fruit quality in 2011, but fruit from covered grapevine had less postharvest rot in 2012 than fruit from noncovered grapevines, even though a measurable rain event occurred in 2011 but not in 2012. In conclusion, our results suggest that white covers may be preferable to green since green covers were associated with higher temperatures in both seasons and higher RH in the ‘Autumn King’ trial of 2012, but otherwise performed similarly.

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Matthew W. Fidelibus, Frederick S. Davies and Craig A. Campbell

Gibberellic acid (GA3) increases juice yield of processing oranges, but results are inconsistent. Preliminary research suggested that this variability might be related to application timing. Therefore, we conducted an experiment to determine the optimal time to apply GA3 for increasing juice yield of `Hamlin', `Pineapple', and `Valencia' sweet oranges [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osb.]. Mature trees of each cultivar were sprayed with ≈10 L of a solution of GA3 (45 g·ha-1 a.i.) and organo-silicone surfactant (Silwet, 0.05%) between 2 Sept. and 9 Dec. 1998, and 25 Sept. and 9 Dec. 1999, or remained non-sprayed (control). Generally, the earliest application dates were most effective at maintaining peel puncture resistance above that of control fruit, while the latest application dates resulted in the most green peel color at harvest. Juice yield of `Hamlin' and `Valencia', but not `Pineapple', was increased by GA3 at some application timings and harvest dates in both years. The increase in juice yield was related to time between application and harvest; juice yield of `Hamlin' was greatest ≈2 months, and `Valencia' ≈5 months after GA3 application. Treated fruit often had lower juice Brix than non-sprayed fruit, a phenomenon that often paralleled treatment effects on peel color. When treatments did not increase juice yield but reduced juice Brix, then yield of solids was sometimes lower than for non-treated fruit. Treatments generally delayed flowering of `Pineapple' and `Valencia' but not `Hamlin'.