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Frank Kappel, Bob Fisher-Fleming, and Eugene Hogue

The relationship between the objective assessment of analytical measures of sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) fruit quality and the corresponding sensory panel rating was studied. The optimum size, based on average fruit weight, for sweet cherries was 11 to 12 g. A nine-row or 29- to 30-mm-diameter sweet cherry would be the equivalent industry standard. When two separate panels were conducted with overlapping samples, panelists had similar results for optimum fruit size. The optimum color is represented by the #6 color chip of the prototype of the Centre Technique Interprofessionnel des Fruits et Légumes (CTIFL) scale (#5 in new commercial CTIFL chart). A fruit firmness between 70 and 75 using a Shore Instrument durometer was considered optimum. Minimum soluble solids concentration (SSC) for sweet cherries was between 17% and 19% and optimum pH of the juice was 3.8. The optimum sweet–sour balance was between 1.5 and 2 (SSC/ml NaOH).

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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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Frank Kappel, Robert Fisher-Fleming, and Eugene J. Hogue

The relationship between the objective assessment of sensory attributes or fruit characteristics of pear (Pyrus communis L.) fruit and the corresponding consumer or sensory panel rating was studied. Optimum fruit diameter was between 6 and 7.5 cm. Some fruit were judged to be too large. Fruit with a bright yellow skin were rated ideal, whereas green or red skin was rated less favorably. A pyriform shape with a length: diameter ratio range of 1.44 to 1.48 was optimum. Round fruit or very elongated fruit were considered undesirable. Perceived firmness increased linearly as the measured firmness increased, with the optimum firmness at 27 to 30 N (using an 11.1-mm penetrometer tip). Perceived juiciness was negatively, linearly related to measured firmness. Ideal firmness for an ideal juiciness rating was 18 to 22 N. Acceptable soluble solids concentrations (SSC) varied with the study year, but ranged between 13.6% and 17.2%. The sweet/sour balance (ratio of SSC: titratable acidity) was a useful indicator of fruit quality.

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Eugene J. Hogue, John A. Cline, Gerry Neilsen, and Denise Neilsen

Fertigated ‘Gala’ apple trees on M.9 (Malus domestica Borkh.) rootstock, planted in 1998, were grown on a coarse soil for 6 years (1998 to 2003) and exposed to eight orchard floor vegetation management treatments within the tree row. These consisted of a glyphosate control; three waste paper mulch treatments [spray-on mulch paper mulch (SM), SM incorporated with dichlobenil, SM applied over uniformly spread shredded office paper (SOP)]; and four living cover crop mulch treatments [dwarf white clover (WC), sweet clover (SC), hairy vetch (HV), and annual rye]. There were no significant treatment effects on leaf nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) status; however, leaf potassium (K) levels were negatively affected by the living mulch treatments in 2 of 5 years. Tree vigor was diminished by several of the orchard floor vegetation management systems in 5 of 6 years. Trees receiving an SM treatment grew more rapidly than trees receiving the ground cover treatments and trees receiving a glyphosate treatment had relatively poor but comparable growth to several of the cover crop treatments. Growth response in trees receiving SM were observed in all production years. After 6 years, cumulative yields were highest from trees receiving any of the three SM or glyphosate treatments and significantly less for any of the ground cover treatments. Weed growth within the rye cover crop was significantly reduced in comparison with the other living mulches; however, it remained sufficiently competitive to contribute to diminished overall yield and tree growth in comparison with the SM and gylphosate control treatments. Overall, response of leaf K concentration to mulch treatments was insufficient to prevent low K levels after 5 years. The addition of K through the organic mulches or recycling of K by cover crops was insufficient to avoid the development of low leaf K levels. Annual fertigation of K, in addition to N and P, appears necessary to maintain adequate vigor and yield when using mulches or cover crops in intensive, drip-irrigated apple orchards grown on coarse soils.

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Tom Forge, Gerry Neilsen, Denise Neilsen, Eugene Hogue, and Dana Faubion

A variety of organic mulches and amendments have been observed to improve soil quality and productivity of apple orchards. Alfalfa hay and composted dairy manure solids (CDS) are readily available in the apple-growing region of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia and could be used to improve orchard performance. The objective of this research was to determine the influences of CDS amendment and alfalfa hay mulch on populations of soil microfauna, soil chemical properties, and early growth; nutrient uptake; and yield of apple planted into a fumigated coarse-textured soil in central Washington State. Alfalfa mulch significantly improved tree vigor and fruit yield with minimal adverse effects on fruit quality, whereas the CDS amendment had minor effects on vigor and yield. Both alfalfa mulch and CDS amendment increased availability and uptake into leaves and fruit of most key nutrients but plant nutrient concentrations were not deficient in control plots, suggesting that increased nutrient availability was probably not the primary reason for the increased vigor attributed to alfalfa mulch at this site. The alfalfa mulch resulted in elevated populations of microbivorous nematodes and protozoa that persisted through later years of the experiment, indicating greater overall microbial activity, mineralization of nutrients, and possible direct stimulation of root growth under mulch; the CDS amendment did not consistently enhance populations of microbivorous nematodes. The alfalfa mulch, but not CDS amendment, suppressed the buildup of populations of root-lesion nematodes, which are important components of the replant disease complex that was suppressing tree growth at the site despite the preplant fumigation. Accordingly, we speculate that the reduced impacts of root-lesion nematodes contributed to the improved vigor and fruit yield of trees grown with alfalfa hay mulch.

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John Cline, Gerry Neilsen, Eugene Hogue, Shawn Kuchta, and Denise Neilsen

Use of and interest in organic mulches for both integrated fruit production (IFP) and organic fruit production is increasing given recent efforts to reduce pesticide inputs and improve soil health. A series of four experiments was conducted in the southern interior of British Columbia over 5 years to investigate the use of a spray-on-mulch (SOM) slurry, comprised primarily of recycled waste newsprint fiber, as an effective method to control excessive weed competition and enhance tree establishment and performance. In four experiments, ‘Gala’, ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Ambrosia’, and ‘Honeycrisp’ apple (Malus ×domestica) trees on ‘Malling 9’ (‘M.9’) rootstock were exposed to a series of treatments including a glyphosate check, SOM waste paper, SOM over an organic underlay, SOM incorporated with dichlobenil or tackifier, SOM over black landscape fabric, rowcover cloth, or polyethylene plastic. SOM provided superior weed control in comparison with the glyphosate check treatment, a standard orchard practice in many modern orchards in North America. SOM application over compost, paper, and especially over cloth barriers were found to be more effective weed barriers than SOM alone. In comparison with glyphosate checks, SOM improved tree growth during tree establishment. Although the addition of dichlobenil provided season-long weed control, tree growth was diminished in comparison with SOM alone and remained similar to that of the glyphosate checks. There was little or no benefit of including a 2.5% tacking agent to help improve SOM integrity and long-term surface stability. When applied to bearing 4-year-old trees, SOM provided similar tree vigor as glyphosate checks over four growing seasons. The addition of landscape fabric, plastic, or cloth underlay material in combination with SOM improved tree vigor in formative years, but this benefit diminished over time. SOM-treated trees had greater cumulative yields over glyphosate checks after 3 years of production. SOM provided significant temperature moderation during the summer and winter months and provided moisture conservation during the summer. There were few SOM effects on plant nutrient status.

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

Uptake, recycling, and partitioning of N in relation to N supply and dry matter partitioning was determined for 3- and 4-year-old `Elstar' apple trees [(Malus sylvestris (L) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] on Malling 9 rootstock in 1994 (year 3) and 1995 (year 4), respectively. Trees received N yearly as Ca(NO3)2 at 20 g/tree applied on a daily basis through a drip irrigation system. The fertilizer was labelled with 15N in year 3 to allow quantification of remobilization and uptake. The trees were not allowed to crop in years 1 and 2 and were not thinned in years 3 and 4, thereby establishing a range of crop loads. Dry matter and N contents were measured in fruit, midseason and senescent leaves and prunings collected in year 3, in midseason leaves, and in components of the whole trees, harvested in fall of year 4. Labelled N withdrawn from leaves in year 3 was less than that remobilized into leaves and fruit in year 4, indicating that senescent leaves were not the only source of remobilized N. Nitrogen uptake efficiency (total N uptake/N applied) in year 3 was low (22.3%). Of the N taken up, ≈50% was removed at the end of the growing season in fruit and leaves. In fall of year 4, the trees contained about 20 g N of which 50% was partitioned into leaves and fruit, indicating that the annual N uptake by young dwarf apple trees is low (≈10 g/tree). Data were pooled to compare dry matter and N partitioning into two major sinks: fruit and shoot leaves. Total fruit dry weight increased, and in year 4, fruit size decreased with fruit number, indicating that growth was carbon (C) limited at high crop loads. The number of shoot leaves initiated in both years was unaffected by fruit number, but leaf size decreased as fruit number increased in year 4. In year 3, the amount of both remobilized and root-supplied N in fruit increased with fruit number, but the N content of the shoot leaf canopy was unaffected. In general, N and C partitioning were coupled and leaf N concentrations were high (2.8% to 3.2%), suggesting that the low uptake efficiency of fertilizer N resulted because the availability of N in the root zone greatly exceeded demand.