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Gerry Henry Neilsen, Denise Neilsen, and Linda Herbert

A randomized complete block, split-plot experiment with six replicates was established and maintained for the first six fruiting seasons (1999 to 2004) in a high-density apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] orchard on M.9 rootstock planted in Apr. 1998. This report assesses responses to six main-plot fertigation treatments, each containing three tree subplots of five different cultivars (Ambrosia, Cameo, Fuji, Gala, and Silken). Fertigation treatments were a factorial combination of two nitrogen (N) rates and three N application timings. N was applied at low (28 mg N/L) or high (168 mg N/L) concentrations daily at 0 to 4, 4 to 8, or 8 to 12 weeks after full bloom (wafb). Under greater N inputs, all cultivars had increased midsummer leaf and harvested fruit N concentrations, decreased fruit firmness, and in heavy crop years, decreased percent red color. Annual yield of all cultivars was significantly increased by N rate in a single year, but their cumulative yields were not different between treatments as a result of rate or timing. Altering the timing of N application within 12 wafb only affected leaf and fruit tissue N concentration. Leaf N was higher after 4 weeks of fertigation any time, although concentrations declined over the growing season, reaching minimum values around harvest. Fruit N was increased by fertigation 4 to 12 wafb. Yield, fruit firmness, and color were unaffected by fertigation timing. Critical fruit quality issues for ‘Gala’ and ‘Silken’ were small fruit size, for Ambrosia low fruit numbers, and for ‘Cameo’ soft fruit. ‘Fuji’, which achieved high yield and leaf N concentration and firm fruit, had poor red color regardless of N treatments.

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Frank J. Peryea, Denise Neilsen, and Gerry Neilsen

The recommendations for boron (B) sprays in deciduous tree fruit orchards have changed little over the past 50 years. We conducted two 3-year field studies evaluating the effect of two modifications to the existing recommendation for B maintenance sprays on apple (Malus ×domestica) tree nutritional status. A widely recommended Na polyborate-based commercial B spray product was used as the B source. Postbloom sprays of B applied at the recommended annual B maintenance rate of 0.56 kg·ha-1 to `Scarlet Gala' apple trees consistently increased fruit B concentration but had a weaker effect on leaf B concentration in early August, the recommended timing for sampling leaves for mineral element analysis. Applying half or all of the annual B maintenance rate in a spray at the pink flowering stage increased flower cluster and early-season leaf B concentrations as well as having positive effects on fruit and leaf B concentrations. The pink sprays increased flower cluster Na concentration but had no effect on leaf and fruit Na concentrations. In the second study, one-quarter of the annual B fertilizer requirement was tank-mixed with each of four biweekly CaCl2 sprays applied starting in early June for bitter pit control. This treatment consistently increased `Scarlet Gala' fruit B concentration but had a lesser effect on August leaf B concentration. It did not interfere with fruit Ca status, and increased both fruit and leaf Na concentrations. Leaf Na concentration in all treatments was substantially lower than levels associated with specific Na toxicity of deciduous fruit trees. The results of these experiments indicate that applying B sprays at the pink flowering stage timing and tank-mixing B with CaCl2 sprays applied for bitter pit control are useful practices to enhance B spray efficacy and convenience of application.

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Gerry Neilsen, Frank Kappel, and Denise Neilsen

`Lapins' sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) trees on Gisela 5 (Prunus cerasus × Prunus cansecens) rootstock were maintained for the first four growing seasons with eight different fertigation treatments. Treatments involved N application at low (42 mg·L-1), medium (84 mg·L-1), and high (168 mg·L-1) concentrations via sprinkler-fertigation of Ca(NO3)2 each year about 8 weeks after bloom. The medium N treatment was also applied with P fertigation in early spring or with K fertigation in June. Nitrogen was also broadcast in early spring at 75 kg·ha-1 or followed with medium N sprinkler-fertigated postharvest in August. As a final treatment the medium root zone N concentration was maintained for 8 weeks postbloom via drip fertigation. Throughout the study, irrigation was scheduled to meet evaporative demand based on an electronic atmometer. Drip fertigation, which wet a smaller portion of the orchard floor, considerably reduced per-tree water applications. Tree vigor and pruning weights were reduced for drip-fertigated as compared to sprinkler-fertigated trees although cumulative yield was not significantly different during the study. Fruit size, however, was smaller for this treatment when crop load was at a maximum at year 4. Future research is warranted to insure fruit size can be maintained for heavily cropping drip-fertigated trees. Leaf and fruit N increased linearly as N concentration of sprinkler-fertigating solution increased from low to high values. Optimum yield and highest fruit quality were associated with the medium N treatment. Sprinkler fertigation of P and K did not increase leaf and fruit concentration of either nutrient or meaningfully affect tree performance.

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Gerry Neilsen, Frank Kappel, and Denise Neilsen

‘Lapins’ sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) on Gisela 5 (Prunus cerasus × Prunus canescens) rootstock were subjected to a factorial combination of two crop load and eight fertigation treatments from the sixth to the eight growing seasons. Crop load treatments included full crop and dormant spur thinning to remove and maintain 50% of fruiting spurs. The eight fertigation treatments, which had been maintained since the first growing season, included low (42 mg·L−1), medium (84 mg·L−1), and high (168 mg·L−1) concentrations of N applied by sprinkler fertigation of Ca(NO3)2 annually ≈8 weeks postbloom. The medium N concentration was also applied with P fertigated in early spring or K fertigated in June. A standard N treatment involved broadcast application of NH4NO3 in early spring at 75 kg·ha−1 also followed with medium N sprinkler-fertigated postharvest in August. The medium N concentration was also supplied for 8 weeks postbloom through drip emitters. Removal of 50% of fruiting spurs decreased annual yield on average by only 10%. Average fruit size could be increased in years of high crop load (greater than 400 g fruit/cm2 trunk cross-sectional area), but in a year of low crop load (less than 100 g fruit/cm2), fruit size was very large (averaging greater than 14 g) and unaffected by crop load adjustment. Minimal effects on fruit and leaf NPK concentrations, fruit firmness, soluble solids concentration (SSC), and titratable acidity (TA) were associated with yield reductions of 10%. Fertigation treatments resulted in a large range in tree vigor and yield during the experiment. High N applications reduced tree and fruit size and fruit TA and were undesirable. Annual P and K fertigation by sprinklers was generally ineffective, having minimal effects on tree PK nutrition and fruit quality with the exception of increased fruit firmness associated with P fertigation in 2005, when yield was low. Drip-fertigated trees were small, frequently had fruit with elevated SSC, but had deficient leaf K concentrations in 2004 implying a need to fertigate K when drip-irrigating.

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Kelly Ross, Gerry Neilsen, and Denise Neilsen

This work examined the effect of irrigation frequency and phosphorus (P) fertigation on the levels of phenolic compounds present in two sweet cherry cultivars, ‘Skeena’ and ‘Cristalina’, over three growing seasons (2012–14). Two irrigation treatments were tested: a high irrigation frequency (I1) and a low irrigation frequency (I2). Both irrigation treatments applied the same quantities of water [100% evapotranspiration (ET)], but the high irrigation frequency applied water four times daily (0300, 0900, 1500, and 2100 hr) whereas the low irrigation frequency was applied at one time (0900 hr) every second day. Three soil management treatments were investigated, including 1) an unmulched control receiving no P, 2) a 10-cm waste wood mulch receiving no P, and 3) a treatment involving annual fertigation of 20 g P/tree at full bloom as ammonium polyphosphate. It was determined that cultivar was the most important factor affecting levels of phenolic compounds in sweet cherries, with generally greater levels associated with ‘Skeena’. The effect of different irrigation and fertilization strategies showed less promising results in terms of influencing levels of phenolic compounds. Both severe and mild water stress did not show an appreciable influence on increasing levels of phenolic compounds in cherries. Furthermore, severe water stress, which occurred during 2012, was associated with the lowest annual concentration of phenolic compounds and an economically unacceptable reduction in fruit size. Phosphorus fertigation influenced cherry phosphorus status positively by increasing leaf and fruit P concentrations consistently, yet these fruit exhibited lower levels of phenolic compounds.

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Eugene J. Hague and Denise Neilsen

A system for the rapid production of Ottawa-3 (0.3) rootstock (Malus domestica Borkh.) and branched apple nursery stock in the greenhouse is described. The time required for production of a finished' tree, ≈1 year, compared favorably with traditional methods. Cuttings derived from tissue-cultured 0.3 rootstocks rooted well (up to 94% success rate), and the rooting effect persisted in cuttings from tissuecultured rootstocks grown for 1 year in the field. All combinations of two levels of N and P in a Long Ashton nutrient solution were applied weekly to pots containing either tissue-cultured rootstocks or cuttings. The growth rate of tissue-cultured rootstocks exceeded that of cuttings. The growth rate of both sources of rootstocks increased in response to added P and N. Growth of scion shoots (`Royal Gala') increased in response to N. Branch production of `Royal Gala' was greater for trees with the higher P and N rates. Trees on tissue-cultured rootstocks had more branches than those on cuttingderived roostocks at the higher level of N.

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Denise Neilsen, Eugene J. Hogue, Gerald H. Neilsen, and Peter Parchomchuk

Four apple (Malus domestica Borkh) cultivars (`Fuji', `Spartan', `Fiesta', and `Gala') on Malling 9 (M.9) rootstock were grown in the field with three N rates (5, 20, and 35 g N/tree per year), supplied as Ca(NO3)2, and fertigated daily for 9 weeks. In the second year, leaf SPAD readings (chlorophyll readings obtained with the Minolta-502 SPAD meter) increased over the growing season for all cultivars, and leaf N decreased. Leaf SPAD and leaf N measurements increased in response to N fertigation rate at all sampling times. `Gala' consistently had lower SPAD readings than the other cultivars, and, with the exception of the first sampling time, `Fuji' had higher and `Fiesta' lower leaf N concentrations than other cultivars. There were strong relationships between leaf N concentration and SPAD readings for all cultivars until mid-July (r 2 = 0.44 to 0.89), but not later in the growing season. Differences in SPAD readings and leaf N concentration due to cultivar and over time were as great as those due to N treatments, indicating that in the future, determination of critical SPAD values for apple leaves must be standardized for cultivar and sampling time. SPAD readings could be used to assess the need for N early in the growing season in fertigated orchards where rapid changes in nutrition programs can be undertaken readily.

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Denise Neilsen, Gerry H. Neilsen, Peter Parchomchuk, and Eugene J. Hogue

Direct application of fertilizers in irrigation water (fertigation) has been advocated as an efficient method of fertilizing fruit trees. However, more information is needed on the relationship between irrigation and N inputs in order to target fertigation to meet plant demands. Soil solution NO3-N concentration was measured at three sites in response to the method of fertilizer application in which 25 g N/tree per year was either spring-broadcast with sprinkler irrigation or fertigated at 8 weekly intervals through drip irrigation; the amount of irrigation water in which 50 g N/tree per year was given in 63 daily fertigations with either 4 or 8 liters of water/day for two soil types and the concentration of fertigated N in which either 75 or 150 ppm NO3-N was given in 63 daily fertigations. Soil solution NO3-N concentration decreased rapidly for broadcast fertilizer with sprinkler irrigation and was lower than for weekly fertigation with drip irrigation. Doubling the amount of irrigation water effectively halved the soil solution NO3-N concentration in both the silt loam and loamy sand soils, although concentrations were higher in the silt loam soil. Movement of applied N below the root zone was halted for the silt loam soil by mid-summer with the lower amount of irrigation water, but was only delayed in the loamy sand soil. Doubling the average concentration of N in the irrigation water resulted in a doubling of the concentration of NO3-N in the root zone. A simple model was devised to predict the soil solution NO3-N concentration based on N and water inputs and fitted to measured values for daily and weekly fertigation.

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Gerry H. Neilsen, Denise Neilsen, Peter Parchomchuk, and Eugene Hogue

Soil solution monitoring has been suggested as an appropriate procedure to optimize fertigation timing and application rate. Soil solution NO3-N concentrations were measured for two growing seasons on a sandy loam soil when 5, 20 or 30 g N per season per tree were fertigated daily to apples as calcium nitrate from mid May-mid July. Soil solution NO3-N concentrations at 30 cm depth changed rapidly in response to both the initiation and cessation of fertigation, with values ranging from 10-20 ppm, 60-100 ppm and 100-200 ppm for the low to high treatments respectively. The rapid response to NO,-fertilizers implied a potential to control closely the timing of N fertilizer applications. In another experiment, `Empire' apple trees were fertigated 5 times/week from May 31 to August 9 with 30 g N/tree applied either as ammonium sulphate or as calcium nitrate. With calcium nitrate as the N source, NO3-N rapidly increased when fertigation was initiated and fell when fertigation ended. In contrast, with ammonium sulphate, NO3-N was low for about 30 days after initiation of fertigation, then increased to 100 ppm and remained elevated for 40-50 days after fertigation ended. The potential control of N nutrition appeared to be less exact when fertigating NH4-N.

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Gerry Neilsen, Peter Parchomchuk, Michael Meheriuk, and Denise Neilsen

Various schedules of 40 g N and 17.5 g P/tree per year were applied with irrigation water (fertigation) to `Summerland McIntosh' apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees on M.9 rootstock commencing the year of planting. Leaf K concentrations averaged 0.82% dry mass, indicating deficiency, by the third growing season. This coincided with extractable soil K concentrations of 50-60 μg·g-1 soil in a narrow volume of the coarse-textured soil located within 0.3 m of the emitters. The decline in leaf K concentration was reversed and fruit K concentration increased by additions of K at 15-30 g/tree applied either as granular KCl directly beneath the emitters in spring or as KCl applied as a fertigant in the irrigation water. K-fertilization increased fruit red color, size, and titratable acidity only when leaf K concentration was <1%. Fruit Ca concentration and incidence of bitter pit or coreflush were unaffected by K application. NPK-fertigation commencing upon tree establishment is recommended for high-density apple orchards planted on similar coarse-textured soils.