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Amaya Atucha and Greg Litus

The use of biochar as a soil amendment has generated interest all over the world, and it has been advocated as a means to improve soil fertility and sequester carbon. The objective of this study was to test if the use of pinewood biochar could reduce the detrimental effects of replant disease (RD) on peach tree growth and biomass production. An RD-susceptible peach rootstock, Lovell, was grown in soil from a peach replant site (control), sterilized soil (sterilized), and biochar-amended soil at 10% and 20% (v/v) [low biochar (LB) and high biochar (HB), respectively], all from the same site. Trunk diameter increase was measured weekly; total aboveground and belowground biomass was determined by harvesting a subsample of plants at 11, 22, and 33 weeks after planting. Soil samples, and foliar and root tissue samples were collected before each harvesting date and analyzed for nutrient content. Total aboveground and belowground biomass production was significantly higher in the biochar and sterilized soil treatment (S) compared with the control. Root carbon (C*) content was significantly greater in the HB treatment compared with the control. Soil nitrate-N was significantly greater in the HB treatment by the third harvesting date, and foliar magnesium (Mg) concentrations were significantly higher in both biochar treatments for all harvesting dates. The results from this study provide evidence that biochar may alleviate RD in peach trees.

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Madeline Wimmer, Beth Ann Workmaster and Amaya Atucha

Training systems influence grapevine (Vitis sp.) size, shape, and canopy architecture, which ultimately affects yield and fruit composition. Cold climate interspecific hybrid grapes (CCIHG) have propelled the creation of a new and fast-growing grape and wine industry in the northeast and upper midwest of the United States. This study evaluated the effect of three training systems: high cordon (HC), midwire vertical shoot positioning (VSP), and modified Scott Henry (SH) on vine growth, yield, and fruit composition of four CCIHG cultivars, Brianna, Frontenac, La Crescent, and Marquette, during two growing seasons. The divided canopy training system SH increased the crop yield per meter of row in all cultivars relative to HC and VSP, despite reduction in crop size imposed by crop thinning in vines trained to SH. VSP-trained vines had lower yields compared with HC, and this was most evident during the second year of the study, as vines were still being trained when the study commenced. Despite the higher crop size associated with vines trained in a SH system, there were minimal differences in fruit soluble solid concentration (SSC), titratable acidity (TA), and pH at harvest time. No differences were observed in vine size, expressed as dormant cane pruning weights, among training systems possibly because of the control of vegetative vigor, especially in VSP-trained vines, through shoot positioning and summer pruning. CCIHG cultivars appear to have the capacity to support higher yields under SH and HC systems without compromising fruit quality; however, labor requirements involved in establishing and maintaining more complex training systems should be considered when selecting a training system for CCIHG cultivars.

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Amaya Atucha, Ian A. Merwin and Michael G. Brown

Groundcover management systems (GMSs) are essential for fruit production, but very few long-term studies have evaluated orchard GMS sustainability. We evaluated four GMSs—pre-emergence soil-active herbicides (PreHerb), post-emergence herbicide (PostHerb), a turfgrass cover crop (Sod), and hardwood bark mulch (Mulch)—in an apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) orchard over 16 years of continuous observation. There were no consistent long-term trends in fruit yields among GMSs, although during the first 5 years, yields were lower in trees on Sod. Tree growth was greater in PostHerb and Mulch than in Sod during the first 5 years, and during the next decade, trees in Mulch plots were consistently larger than in other GMSs. Total soil nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) content, C-to-N ratios, and essential plant nutrients were much greater in the Mulch soil after 16 years of treatments. Long-term responses of trees to groundcover vegetation indicated that apple trees respond adaptively to compensate for weed and grass competition. Year-round elimination of surface vegetation with residual soil active herbicides may be unnecessary or even detrimental for orchard productivity and soil fertility in established orchards. Post-emergence herbicides that reduce weed competition primarily during the summer months may offer an optimal combination of weed suppression and soil conservation.

Free access

Amaya Atucha, Ian A. Merwin, Chandra K. Purohit and Michael G. Brown

Excessive nitrogen (N) applications can increase surface and water contamination, and leaching losses may occur when N fertilizer rates are too high relative to crop demands and soil N availability. Quantifying nutrient inputs, cycling, and outputs from orchards provides a method to measure surplus of nutrients, particularly N, that may leach or runoff. We conducted a long-term study to develop N budgets based on observed nutrient dynamics under four groundcover management systems (GMSs) with and without N fertilization. Four GMS treatments were randomly assigned to 12 plots and maintained since 1992 in 2-m-wide strips within tree rows: pre-emergence residual herbicide (PreHerb), post-emergence herbicide (PostHerb), mowed-sod (Sod), and hardwood bark mulch (Mulch). We measured system N inputs in fertilizer, mulch biomass, rain, and irrigation water; N outputs in harvested fruit, surface runoff, and subsurface leaching; and internal N cycling from surface vegetation, soil mineralization, leaf fall, and pruned wood. For the year with N fertilizer (2005), the overall N balance was positive (inputs exceeded outputs) in all GMSs but greater in the PostHerb and Mulch treatments. In the year without N fertilizer (2007), the overall N balance was negative for PreHerb and PostHerb and positive for Mulch and Sod treatments. Soil mineralization and recycling groundcover biomass accounted for greater than 60% of internal N fluxes, and harvested fruit represented greater than 70% of N outputs from the system during both years. During the year with N fertilizer, N losses were 1% to 4% and 18% to 22% through surface runoff and subsurface leaching, respectively. During the year without fertilizer, surface runoff N losses were twice the subsurface leaching N losses in all GMSs.

Open access

R. Karina Gallardo, Parichat Klingthong, Qi Zhang, James Polashock, Amaya Atucha, Juan Zalapa, Cesar Rodriguez-Saona, Nicholi Vorsa and Massimo Iorizzo

Informed assessment of priority genetic traits in plant breeding programs is important to improve the efficiency of developing cultivars suited to current climate and industry needs. The efficiency of genetic improvement is critical for perennial crops such as cranberries, as they usually involve more resources, time, and funding compared with other crops. This study investigated the relative importance of cranberry producers’ preferences for breeding traits related to fruit quality, productivity, plant physiology, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Industry responses revealed that fruit characteristics affecting fruit quality, including firmness, fruit size and anthocyanin content, and resistance to fruit rot, were the most desired traits in new cranberry cultivar release. These traits have the potential to increase the quality standards needed to process high-value sweetened dried cranberry products, positively affecting price premiums received by producers, which is critical for the economic viability of the cranberry industry. Our findings will be useful to breeders and allied scientists seeking to develop an advanced DNA-based selection strategy that would impact the global cranberry industry.