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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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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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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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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.

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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.