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Julie M. Tarara, Bernardo Chaves and Bernadine C. Strik

Grow tubes are well established in forestry and are gaining attention in establishing some woody perennial crops. To date, microclimate descriptions have addressed the aboveground environment, but a mulched raised bed system with organic mulch-incorporated soil requires both the above- and belowground microclimate to be quantified. We measured the microclimate of commercially used, non-ventilated translucent and non-ventilated opaque grow tubes in a model crop of blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) grown on sawdust-mulch-covered raised beds formed from sawdust-incorporated tilled soil. The differences in air temperature between tubes and ambient were consistent with those reported in the literature. Air temperature in translucent tubes was up to 19.7 °C higher than ambient. Differences in vapor pressure deficit were largely a function of differences in air temperature between tubes and ambient rather than actual vapor pressure. Stem temperatures were highest outside of the tubes as a result of radiation load. The surface temperature of ambient sawdust mulch (maximum 53 °C) was up to 14 °C above that in the translucent tube and 20 °C above that in the opaque tube. The largest gradients in the bed system were between the loose dry mulch and the soil–mulch interface. The presence of a grow tube did not influence soil temperature or its daily amplitude at 15 cm below the surface—the native tilled soil. Temperatures associated with the opaque tubes were between ambient and those in the translucent tubes. The temperature data indicate that both opaque and translucent unventilated grow tubes should influence shoot and crown growth but may have little influence on root growth in this shallow-rooted plant.

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Julie M. Tarara, Bernardo Chaves and Bernadine C. Strik

Microclimate variables were integrated over a 6-month period during which blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum cv. Liberty) bushes were grown in 51-cm high, 20-cm diameter round grow tubes (opaque or translucent) on a sawdust mulch-covered raised bed with the mulch incorporated into tilled soil. Grow tubes were installed around plants in the spring of 2006, 5 months after planting. Total photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) density was 55% and 21% of ambient in translucent and opaque tubes, respectively. Daily maximum vapor pressure deficit consistently was highest in translucent tubes. Air (Ta) and stem (Tstem) temperatures in both grow tube types exceeded Ta and Tstem in non-tubed plants (ambient). Maximum mulch surface temperature (Tm) was lowest in opaque tubes, whereas there was no difference in Tm between ambient and translucent tubes. The soil–mulch interface temperature (Tsm) was warmer outside tubes than Tsm inside tubes. Soil temperatures directly under the tubes differed very little between tube types and ambient, generally less than 1 °C. Root and crown dry mass (DM) did not differ between tubed plants and ambient at the end of the establishment year. Leaf area, leaf DM, and fruit bud number were suppressed inside tubes. All plants were greater than 51 cm tall at the end of the growing season. Substantial compensatory growth occurred above tubes: tubed plants were more upright and had more leaf area, leaf DM, and shoot growth than ambient plants above 51 cm. However, there was no difference between tubed and ambient plants in fruit bud number, total plant leaf area, shoot:root, or DM of 1- and 2-year-old wood. Grow tubes can alter microclimate and architecture of young blueberry bushes but have no significant influence on size and distribution of total DM after one growing season in the field.

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Julie M. Tarara, Bernardo Chaves, Luis A. Sanchez and Nick K. Dokoozlian

The lag phase (L) of grape berry growth is used to determine the timing of hand sampling for yield estimation. In commercial practice, growers apply scalars to measurements of berry of cluster masses under the assumption that fruit was assessed during L, which is the short period of slowest increase in fruit mass that occurs between the first and second sigmoid curves that describe growth in fleshy fruits. To estimate L, we used an automated remote system that indirectly detects increases in vegetative and fruit mass in grapevines by monitoring the tension (T) in the main load-bearing wire of the trellis. We fitted logistic curves to the change in TT) such that the parameters could be interpreted biologically, particularly the onset of L: the asymptotic deceleration of growth. Curves fit the data well [root mean square error (RMSE) 4.2 to 14.9] in three disparate years and two vineyards. The onset of L was most sensitive to the inflection point of the first logistic curve but relatively insensitive to its shape parameter. The analytical solution of the second derivative of the first logistic curve for its minimum predicted the apparent onset of L with a range of 3 to 5 days among replicates. The roots of the third derivative allowed analytical solutions for the onset of the first rapid growth phase and L, consistently predicting the onset of L 2 to 15 days earlier than was identified by trained observers who examined ΔT curves. Remote sensing of ΔT could better time field sampling and decrease current reliance on visual and tactile assessment to identify the onset of L, thus improving yield estimation in grapes.

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Brian M. Irish, Ricardo Goenaga, Sirena Montalvo, Bernardo Chaves-Cordoba and Inge Van den Bergh

Bananas are one of the most important fruits, serving as a cash crop and staple food in many regions of the world. In Puerto Rico, bananas are an important agricultural industry, supplying all the fruit needed for local demand. Diseases significantly limit production, and the evaluation and adoption of improved genetic resistance in bananas might provide an avenue for long-term sustainable production. To this end, nine enhanced genotypes from international selection and breeding programs were introduced and evaluated for their response to black leaf streak (BLS) (Pseudocercospora fijiensis Morelet) and for their agronomic performance. Bananas were evaluated as part of a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS) and Bioversity International’s International Musa Testing Program (IMTP). Improved genotypes were compared with disease-resistant and disease-susceptible reference genotypes across two cropping cycles. Field plants were grown following commercial production practices with no BLS management. Significant differences in disease reactions were observed during both cropping cycles for test and reference genotypes. Under high disease pressure, ‘FHIA-21’, ‘FHLORBAN 916’, and ‘FHLORBAN 920’ test genotypes showed higher numbers of functional leaves and lower disease severity at harvest in both cycles. Short cycling times were also observed for the two FHLORBAN genotypes. Larger bunches with a high number of fruits were produced by the ‘IBP 12’, ‘IBP 5-B’, and ‘IBP 5-61’ selections. Several of the GCTCV test genotypes were extremely susceptible to BLS, did not perform as expected, and appeared to be off-types. Several of the test genotypes performed well, although currently none possessed all needed traits for a commercial banana substitute. Regardless, several test genotypes have agronomic potential because they have been selected for disease resistance to other important pathogens (e.g., fusarium wilt) and therefore have become part of the permanent TARS collection. Future efforts will continue to focus on the IMTP collaboration and introduction of promising banana genotypes for evaluations.