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Bernadine Strik and Gil Buller

The effect of early cropping (no removal of fruit buds the first two years) and in-row spacing (0.45 or 1.2 m) on growth and yield of `Duke', `Bluecrop', and `Elliott' northern highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) was studied. Plants were grown on raised beds for four years. No yield was produced on the control plants in the planting year (year 1) and year 2. Plant growth at the start of year 3 was adversely impacted by early cropping in years 1 and 2. Early cropping reduced the dry weight of the root system, crown, and 1- to 3-year-old wood in all cultivars. `Bluecrop' plants had less total dry weight than those of `Duke' or `Elliott'. Roots accounted for 30% to 45% of the total plant dry weight depending on cultivar. Early-cropped plants had a lower percentage of fruit buds than control plants. Early cropping reduced yield 44%, 24%, and 19% in year 3, compared to control plants, in `Elliott', `Duke', and `Bluecrop', respectively. Cumulative yield (years 1 through 4) was similar between control and early cropped plants in `Bluecrop' and `Duke', whereas early cropping reduced cumulative yield in `Elliott' 20% to 40%, depending on in-row spacing. Plants spaced at 0.45 m produced 62% to 140% more yield per hectare than those spaced at 1.2 m, depending on cultivar. `Elliott' plants seemed less suited to high density planting due to their large root system.

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Bernadine C. Strik and Gil Buller

Summer pruning systems were compared for ‘Prime-Jan’® primocane-fruiting blackberry (Rubus subgenus Rubus) grown in a fully closed, plastic covered tunnel in Aurora, OR. Individual canes were soft-tipped (by removing 0.10 m) or hard-tipped (removing 0.45 m) to a 1-m height on each of four dates in 2008 and 2009. On average, canes that were hard-tipped produced more branches and had more fruit/cane than soft-tipped canes. Canes that were tipped early (22–27 June) produced more fruit/cane than those tipped later (7–24 July). When canes were hard-tipped early in the season, the number of fruit/cane was increased threefold compared with soft-tipping canes early. In contrast, when plots were hedged to 1-m tall lightly (“soft” hedge removing 0.10 m) on 22–27 June or more severely (“hard” hedge, removing 0.45 m) on 29 June–2 July, using shears, there was no significant effect on yield/plot. The hard-hedge treatments may have performed better if they had been done earlier or at the same time as the soft-hedge treatments; this would only have been possible if canes had been cut back (hedged) to a shorter height than 1 m. Hard hedging, done ≈1 week later than soft hedging, delayed the fruiting season by 10–14 days. Fruit harvest continued until early to mid-November. Daily average air temperature in the closed tunnel was 2–7 °F warmer than the outside and fruit were protected from autumn rainfall. Hard-tipping individual canes, by hand, or hedging primocanes mechanically early in the season shows promise in this crop for maximizing economic returns.

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Bernadine Strik, Gil Buller and Edward Hellman

The following pruning treatments were studied in mature `Bluecrop' (1996-2000) and `Berkeley' (1996-98) plants: 1) “conventional” pruning with removal of unproductive canes, thinning of 1-year-old shoots at the base of the bush, and removal of any unproductive wood or thinning of excessive fruiting wood near the top of the bush, as required; 2) “speed” pruning involving removal of one or two of the most unproductive canes at the base of the bush; and 3) “un-pruned” where no pruning was done for the length of this study. Conventional pruning took an average of 6.4 min/plot, while speed pruning saved 88.8% time. There was no pruning treatment effect on the percentage of fruit buds in `Berkeley' (42%) or `Bluecrop' (34%) or percent fruit set (70% to 90%, depending on cultivar and year) in any year. Un-pruned plants of both cultivars had significantly greater yield than conventionally pruned plants, depending on the year, while speed pruning generally resulted in intermediate yields. Un-pruned and speed-pruned plants produced berries that were 19% to 27% smaller than conventionally pruned plants, depending on year. The fruit harvest season of un-pruned plants began 3 to 5 days later and lasted a week longer than that of conventionally pruned plants. The harvest efficiency of un-pruned plants was reduced as much as 51% in the later years of this study and was most closely correlated with berry weight. Conventionally pruned plants had a significantly higher percentage of the above-ground dry weight allocated to 1-year-old wood and crown than un-pruned plants. In `Bluecrop', N concentration tended to be higher in the crown of conventionally pruned plants than in un-pruned or speed-pruned plants. Conventionally pruned `Bluecrop' plants had significantly higher concentrations of K and P and lower N than un-pruned plants and `Berkeley' had lower concentrations of N, than un-pruned plants. Results indicate that not pruning mature plants may be an option in the short-term, but may have undesirable effects for long-term sustainability.

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Bernadine Strik, Timothy Righetti and Gil Buller

Fertilizer nitrogen (FN) recovery, and changes in nitrogen (N) and dry weight partitioning were studied over three fruiting seasons in June-bearing strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch. `Totem') grown in a matted row system. Fertilizer nitrogen treatments were initiated in 1999, the year after planting. The standard ammonium nitrate N application at renovation (55 kg·ha-1 of N) was compared to treatments where additional N was applied. Supplemental treatments included both ground-applied granular ammonium nitrate (28 kg·ha-1 of N) applied early in the season and foliar urea [5% (weight/volume); 16 kg·ha-1 of N] applied early in the season and after renovation. When labeled N was applied (eight of nine treatments) it was applied only once. The impact of no FN from the second through the third fruiting season was also evaluated. Fertilizer nitrogen treatment had no impact on total plant dry weight, total plant N, yield or fruit quality from the first through the third fruiting seasons. Net dry matter accumulation in the first fruiting season was 2 t·ha-1 not including the 4 t·ha-1 of dry matter removed when leaves were mowed during the renovation process. Seasonal plant dry weight and N accumulation decreased as the planting aged. Net nitrogen accumulation was estimated at 40 kg·ha-1 from spring growth to dormancy in the first fruiting season (including 30 kg·ha-1 in harvested fruit, but not including the 52 kg·ha-1 of N lost at renovation). Recovery of fertilizer N ranged from 42% to 63% for the broadcast granular applications and 15% to 52% for the foliar FN applications, depending on rate and timing. Fertilizer N from spring applications (granular or foliar) was predominantly partitioned to leaves and reproductive tissues. A large portion of the spring applied FN was lost when plants were mowed at renovation. Maximum fertilizer use efficiency was 42% for a granular 55 kg·ha-1 application at renovation, but declined to 42% just before plant growth the following spring, likely a result of FN loss in leaves that senesced. In June, ≈30% of the N in strawberry plants was derived from FN that was applied at renovation the previous season, depending on year. This stored FN was reallocated to reproductive tissues (22% to 35%) and leaves (43% to 53%), depending on year. Applying fertilizer after renovation increased the amount of remobilized N to new growth the following spring. The following June, 15% of plant nitrogen was derived from fertilizer applied at renovation 2 years prior.

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Bernadine C. Strik, Gil Buller and Julie M. Tarara

Grow tubes are sometimes used in blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) to establish plantings or replace dead plants in older fields. Two experiments were conducted at a commercial farm to evaluate the effect of various grow tubes used during planting establishment of highbush blueberry cultivars. The treatments in the first experiment were cultivar (‘Aurora’, ‘Elliott’, ‘Liberty’) and grow tube treatment (no tube, control; opaque cardboard tube in the first growing season; and opaque plastic tube in the first season or first through the second season). The treatments in the second experiment were cultivar (‘Aurora’, ‘Elliott’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Ozarkblue’) and grow tube treatment (control; translucent plastic; opaque plastic; and wire mesh tube over plants in the first growing season). The presence of a grow tube from spring to fall of the first growing season decreased crown dry weight (DW) by an average of 37% to 50% and root DW by 30% (all except translucent plastic in Expt. 2) and increased the aboveground:belowground DW ratio relative to the control by an average of 34% to 67%, depending on the experiment. Plants grown in tubes were taller, had a narrower canopy, and had fewer whips, likely a response to low light levels inside the tubes; the fewest whips were found in the opaque plastic or cardboard tubes and the most in the translucent plastic tube with an intermediate response in the wire mesh tube. Removal of grow tubes during the summer led to plant damage from sudden sun exposure. The opaque grow tubes (present in Year 1) reduced yield/plant in Year 2 for ‘Elliott’ and ‘Liberty’ (cardboard tube only) but not ‘Aurora’. Pruning plants to allow for limited early fruit production (≈0.6 kg/plant) in Year 2 did not reduce yield in Year 3 (≈2.7 kg/plant). Whereas grow tubes reduced root and crown growth in the first season, there appeared to be no longer-term adverse effect on aboveground plant growth or yield.

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Bernadine C. Strik, John R. Clark, Chad E. Finn and Gil Buller

Primocane management systems were compared for ‘Prime-Jan’® and ‘Prime-Jim’®, primocane-fruiting blackberry (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus, Watson), grown in a field planting in Aurora, OR. Treatments studied were: 1) no manipulation of primocanes (untipped; no floricanes); 2) untipped primocanes growing in the presence of floricanes; 3) untipped primocanes grown with rowcover in late winter to early spring; and 4) primocanes “soft-tipped” at 1 m to encourage branching. Date of primocane first bloom and cane height at bloom were unaffected by cultivar and were only affected by primocane management in 2005. The number of growing degree-days to first bloom ranged from 1272 to 1390 depending on year. Primocane management did not affect ovule or drupelet number per berry or percent drupelet set. ‘Prime-Jim’ had more drupelets and greater weight per berry in 2005 than ‘Prime-Jan’. Fruit harvested earlier in the season had more ovules and drupelets than later harvested fruit in 2004. Primocanes that grew in the presence of floricanes were longer and bloomed later but did not differ in yield from untipped canes grown only for a primocane crop. Use of rowcover in 2005 advanced bloom and harvest, improving yield 73% compared with untipped control canes. Soft-tipping primocanes increased yield 114% to 150% compared with untipped canes (5.6 vs. 2.4 t·ha−1) through increasing branch and node number per cane and percentage of fruiting nodes; soft-tipping did not delay harvest. Yield/cane was negatively correlated with the number of fruiting canes/plot but positively correlated with branches/cane, total branch and cane length, number of nodes and percent fruiting nodes, fruit/cane, and berry weight. The proportion of fruiting nodes was greater on branches than on the main cane illustrating the importance of managing this type of blackberry to increase branch number for high yield.