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  • Author or Editor: Ali A. Almehdi x
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Seedlings of Prunus mahaleb are often used as rootstocks for sweet cherry (P. avium) scion cultivars in commercial orchards. While they are desirable based on ease of propagation and economical production of nursery stock, seedlings may be variable resulting in nonuniform compound trees, and they are susceptible to several important diseases. Seedling sources have shown substantial variability for population uniformity of plant growth, and reaction to crown gall, powdery mildew and Phytophthora root rot. Segregating families also vary for pollen fertility, inbreeding response and control of scion growth. Multiple screening for favorable trait combinations is underway to develop improved sources of cherry rootstocks.

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In vitro germination of pollen from almond (Prunus amygdalus Batsch), peach [P. persica (L.) Batsch], apricot (P. armeniaca L.), plum (P. salicina Lindl.), and sweet cherry (P. avium L.) after freezing in liquid nitrogen was similar to unfrozen pollen. In vivo germination of frozen pollen was confirmed with apricot and cherry.

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Aspergillus flavus produces aflatoxin, a cancer-causing contaminant of pistachio in many production areas. A superior yeast strain of Pichia anomala has been demonstrated to inhibit the growth of A. flavus in the laboratory. It was selected for further study and potential release based on tests of durability and ability to inhibit A. flavus growth. This strain has been tested in the field for the past two years to evaluate its ability to survive in a field environment and to inhibit A. flavus production. The yeast was evaluated in the field to determine if: 1) the biocontrol yeast can survive in pistachio orchards; 2) the yeast has no phytotoxic effects on the pistachio trees or nuts; and 3) the yeast can be demonstrated to control A. flavus in the field. Studies during 2003 were conducted using a replicated experiment with three yeast concentrations and a water control. Treatments applied later in the season were found to be most effective. Highest yeast concentrations were observed just prior to harvest. Three spray concentrations and a water control were applied to evaluate possible phytotoxic effects on pistachio during 2004. No differences in leaf or nut appearance, in nut percent splits, or dry weight were observed for any of the treatments when compared to the water control. Artificial wounding experiments were also conducted during 2003 and 2004 to simulate the occurrence of early split nuts, the primary repository for A. flavus contamination. A 5× reduction in A. flavus colonization was observed on treated wounded nuts vs. untreated wounded nuts. A 5× reduction in A. flavus sporulation was also observed on treated wounded nuts vs. untreated wounded nuts.

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