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  • Author or Editor: Matthew W. Fidelibus x
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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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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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In two experiments, various combinations of ethephon, with or without 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid (ACC), were applied to the fruiting zone of ‘Selma Pete’ raisin grapes (Vitis vinifera) to determine whether any could serve as a defoliant, and if so, whether defoliation improved subsequent vine drying of the grapes. In the first experiment, the fruiting zone was treated on 8 Aug. 2013 with a control (water) and one of four plant growth regulator (PGR) treatments: 1000 ppm ethephon, 1000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC, 2000 ppm ethephon, and 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC. In the first experiment, treatment with any of the PGRs hastened leaf senescence, but leaf greenness, measured with a SPAD meter, declined most rapidly in leaves from vines treated with 2000 ppm ethephon or 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC, and defoliation was best in vines treated with 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC. None of the treatments in the first study affected berry composition, hastened berry drying, or ultimately affected raisin moisture or quality. In a second experiment, initiated 18 days later, a factorial design was employed to determine whether three chemical treatments, a control (water spray), 2000 ppm ethephon, and 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm of ACC, might interact with fruiting zone orientation (east or west facing) to affect leaf senescence or berry drying. The second study confirmed that 2000 ppm ethephon and 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC induced rapid leaf senescence. Defoliation proceeded more rapidly in the second study and by 13 days after treatment, vines treated with 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC had less than one leaf layer remaining in the fruiting zone compared with more than 2.5 leaf layers in untreated vines. Treatments again had no effect on berry fresh weight or composition, but grapes on west-facing vines treated with 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC dried significantly better than grapes on vines subjected to other treatments, possibly because the higher temperatures of west-facing vines coupled with better defoliation of the 2000 ppm ethephon plus 1000 ppm ACC treatment was sufficient to improve grape drying compared with vines subjected to other trellis orientation and chemical treatment combinations. Therefore, we conclude that treatment with ethylene-promoting PGRs can defoliate the fruiting zone of ‘Selma Pete’ grapes with divided canopies, and such defoliation treatments may enhance berry drying when drying is initiated later than normal.

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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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‘Diamond Muscat’, ‘DOVine’, ‘Fiesta’, and ‘Selma Pete’ grapevines (Vitis vinifera) were evaluated to determine their suitability for making dry-on-vine (DOV) raisins on an open-gable trellis. The experiment was a split-plot, with training system, head, bilateral, or quadrilateral cordons as the main plot, and grapevine cultivar (Diamond Muscat, DOVine, Fiesta, or Selma Pete) as the subplot. Yield components, fruit composition, and raisin yield and quality were evaluated annually. Vine training style did not affect fruit composition, or raisin yield or quality, but vines trained to quadrilateral cordons produced more clusters on renewal shoots than head-trained vines. ‘DOVine’, ‘Fiesta’, and ‘Selma Pete’ produced about 4.75 tons/acre of raisins, ≈10% more than ‘Diamond Muscat’. ‘Diamond Muscat’ vines produced the most clusters on renewal shoots, an undesirable trait, and the most clusters per vine. ‘Fiesta’ matured later than the other cultivars, therefore it had the lowest soluble solids, the poorest raisin grades, and the highest field moisture at harvest. ‘Selma Pete’ grapes matured as early, or earlier, than the grapes of other cultivars, they had among the highest soluble solids and raisin grades, and the raisins generally dried well. Thus, ‘Selma Pete’ grapevines had the best overall performance of the cultivars tested.

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Weed management is an important problem faced by organic grape (Vitis vinifera) growers as there are few effective and economic options available. However, new organically acceptable weed control products have become available in recent years. Several studies were conducted to compare the efficacy of two mechanical weed control methods (French plow and Bezzerides tree and vine cultivator) with steam, and an organic herbicide (d-limonene) in organic raisin and wine grape vineyards. The experiments were designed as split plots with the aforementioned treatments as main plots with additional weed control treatments (handhoeing and no handhoeing in the raisin grape vineyards; hoeing, no hoeing, steam, and d-limonene in the wine grape vineyard) one month after the main plot treatment as subplots. The plow provided the greatest level of weed control among the treatments followed by the cultivator. The time required to hoe mechanically cultivated plots was also generally lower than the other treatments. Steam and herbicide only suppressed weeds for 2–3 weeks, and the time needed to hoe plots in these treatments was generally similar to the untreated control at all sampling dates. The mechanical treatments also were two to four times more cost-effective than steam or herbicide. Therefore, mechanical treatments were the most effective and economical weed control methods, though none of the treatments affected vine growth, midday stem water potential, petiole nitrate concentration at bloom, grape yield, or quality.

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