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Michelle M. Leinfelder and Ian A. Merwin

Apple replant disease (ARD) is a common problem typified by stunted growth and reduced yields in successive plantings of apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) in old orchard sites. ARD is attributed to biotic and abiotic factors; it is highly variable by sites, making it difficult to diagnose and overcome. In this experiment, we tested several methods of controlling ARD in a site previously planted to apple for >80 years. Our objective was to evaluate practical methods for ARD management. We compared three different experimental factors: four preplant soil treatments (PPSTs) (compost amendments, fumigation with Telone C-17, compost plus fumigation, and untreated soil); two replanting positions (in the old tree rows vs. old grass lanes); and five clonal rootstocks (`M.26', `M.7', `G.16', `CG.6210', and `G.30') during 4 years after replanting. The PPSTs had little effect on tree growth or yields during 4 years. Tree growth was affected by planting position, with trees planted in old grass lanes performing better than those in the old tree rows. Rootstocks were the most important factor in overcoming ARD; trees on `CG.6210' and `CG.30' grew better and yielded more than those on other rootstocks. Rootstock selection and row repositioning were more beneficial than soil fumigation or compost amendments in controlling ARD at this orchard.

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James M. Wargo, Ian Merwin and Christopher Watkins

`Jonagold' apple often has problems of inadequate red blush development at harvest, and loss of firmness and skin “greasiness” after refrigerated storage. During two growing seasons we tested factorial combinations of three preharvest treatments for managing these problems: 1) N fertilization (no applied N, 34 kg N/ha in May, or 1% (w/w) foliar urea sprays in May and June); 2) mid-summer trunk scoring (girdling); and 3) aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG) applications 3 weeks prior to harvest. Fruit were harvested at four weekly intervals each year, and evaluated for size, blush, firmness, soluble solids, ethylene, and starch hydrolysis. Nitrogen delayed blush development in 1998, but not 1999, and there was no difference in fruit surface blush coverage between foliar urea and soil applied N. Nitrogen applications increased fruit size, decreased fruit firmness, and increased post-storage flesh breakdown in 1999. Trunk scoring increased blush coverage and intensity both years, and improved market-grade packouts. Blush increase after trunk scoring was not caused by advanced fruit maturity (based on ethylene and starch indices) in either year, although it did increase skin greasiness slightly. AVG treatments delayed maturity and blush development of `Jonagold' by 7 to 10 days both years, relative to untreated fruit. Flesh firmness increased and greasiness decreased in AVG treated fruit harvested on the same dates as controls. However, in AVG fruit harvested at comparable stages of maturity 7 to 10 days later, firmness and greasiness were equivalent to untreated fruit on the previous harvest date. Trunk scoring and no N fertilizer were effective for improving fruit blush coloration, and AVG for delaying harvest maturity.

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Michelle M. Leinfelder, Ian A. Merwin, Gennaro Fazio and Terence Robinson*

We are testing control tactics for apple replant disease (ARD) complex, a worldwide problem for fruit growers that is attributed to various biotic and abiotic soil factors. In Nov. 2001, “Empire” apple trees on five rootstocks (M.26, M.7, G.16, CG.6210, and G.30) were planted into four preplant soil treatments—commercial compost at 492 kg/ha soil-incorporated and 492 kg·ha-1 surface-applied), soil fumigation with Telone C-17 (400 L·ha-1 of 1,3-dichloropropene + chloropicrin injected at 30 cm depth five weeks prior to replanting), compost plus fumigant combination, and untreated controls—at an old orchard site in Ithaca, N.Y. Trees were replanted in rows perpendicular to, and either in or out of, previous orchard rows. Irrigation was applied as needed, and N-P-K fertilizer was applied in 2001 to all non-compost treatments to compensate for nutrients in the compost treatment. After two growing seasons, the rootstock factor has contributed most to tree-growth differences. CG.6210 rootstock supported greater growth in trunk diameter, central leader height, and lateral shoot growth (P < 0.05), regardless of preplant soil treatments and replant position. Trees on M.26 grew least over a two year period. Replant growth was greater in old grass lanes than in old tree rows, despite higher root-lesion nematode populations in previous grass lanes. Growth responses to preplant soil fumigation were negligible. Preplant compost did not increase tree growth during year one, but did increase lateral branch growth in year two. Results thus far suggest that replanting apple trees out of the old tree-row locations, and using ARD tolerant rootstocks such as CG.6210, may be more effective than soil fumigation for control of ARD in some old orchard sites.

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James M. Wargo, Ian A. Merwin and Christopher B. Watkins

`GoldRush' is a new scab (Venturia inaequalis) resistant apple (Malus ×domestica) with excellent flavor and storage qualities that tends to produce small and russeted fruit. We investigated the effects of rate, timing, and method of nitrogen (N) fertilizers on `GoldRush' fruit size and quality during 1998-99. Fertilizer treatments were 1) no N fertilizer (control); 2) a low N rate of 45 kg·ha-1 (40.1 lb/acre) applied in April (LN-Apr); 3) a low N rate of 45 kg·ha-1 applied half in April and half in June (LN-Apr+Jun); 4) a high N rate of 90 kg·ha-1 (80.3 lb/acre) split in April and June (HN-Apr+Jun); 5) a high N rate of 90 kg·ha-1 applied in April, May, June, and July at 22.5 kg·ha-1 (20 lb/acre) each month (HN-Apr+May+Jun+Jul); and 6) canopy sprays of 1% (wt/wt) urea-N, equivalent to 7 kg·ha-1 (6.2 lb/acre) applied monthly in May, June, July, and August (foliar urea). In 1998, an additional foliar urea spray at 5% (wt/wt) concentration was applied to trees after harvest. The first year's Ntreatments did not affect relative average fruit weights or total yields, but unfertilized trees produced more fruit in smaller size categories. Nitrogen fertilization resulted in greener and softer fruit both years. In the second year, all N additions increased yields compared with controls, but average fruit weight was inversely correlated with crop load. Foliar urea sprays and HN-Apr+May+Jun+Jul treatments increased yields the most. Fruit from LN-fertilized trees were normally distributed across a range of eight box-count size categories, peaking at size 100 both years. In the unfertilized control, fruit size was skewed into smaller size categories and yield was reduced. Total yields were greatest in foliar urea and HN-Apr+May+Jun+Jul treatments, but fruit-size distribution was skewed into smaller categories, peaking at size 138 in the second year. Foliar urea and HN-Apr+May+Jun+Jul treatments produced the highest crop value, but when estimated labor and fertilizer costs were considered, foliar urea and LN-Apr+Jun were the most efficient treatments. Nitrogen fertilizer improved fruit size and market value, but average fruit size in all treatments remained relatively small in both years, indicating that N fertilization alone may not increase fruit size in `GoldRush.'

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James M. Wargo, Ian A. Merwin and Christopher B. Watkins

`Jonagold' apples [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] often fail to develop adequate red coloration at maturity and become soft and greasy in storage. During two growing seasons, we tested factorial combinations of three preharvest treatments affecting `Jonagold' quality at harvest and after storage: 1) three nitrogen (N) treatments [36 kg·ha-1 soil applied N, 6.9 kg·ha-1 of urea-N (1% w/v) in foliar sprays mid-May and June, or no N fertilizers]; 2) trunk girdling in early August each year; and 3) foliar applications of aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG, formulated as ReTain) 3 weeks before the first scheduled harvest. Fruit were sampled at four weekly intervals each year and evaluated for maturity and quality at harvest and after storage. Foliar urea and soil-applied N delayed red color development in 1998 but not 1999, increased fruit size in girdled and nonAVG treated trees in both years, and increased greasiness in 1999 only. AVG reduced fruit greasiness after storage both years. Nitrogen uptake was reduced in the dry Summer 1999, but N treatments still increased poststorage flesh breakdown. Mid-summer trunk girdling increased red coloration and intensity both years and improved market-grade packout. This effect was not caused by advanced maturity, although trunk girdling slightly increased skin greasiness. Girdling reduced fruit size only on trees of low N status. The AVG applications delayed maturity and red color development by 7 to 10 days in both years compared with untreated fruit. In 1998, the combination of AVG and N fertilization delayed red color development more than either treatment alone. Fruit softening and greasiness were reduced in AVG-treated fruit harvested at the same time as untreated fruit, but this effect was not observed when AVG treated fruit were harvested at comparable maturity 7 to 10 days later. Trunk girdling and withholding N fertilizer were the best treatments for enhancing red coloration, and foliar N concentrations of ≈2.0% (W/W) resulted in better packouts compared with higher leaf N levels. AVG was an effective tool for delaying fruit maturity and maintaining fruit quality awaiting harvest, but not for improving red coloration of `Jonagold' apples.

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Ian A. Merwin, Warren C. Stiles and Harold M. van Es

This study was conducted to compare various orchard groundcover management systems (GMSs)—including a crownvetch “living mulch” (CNVCH), close-mowed (MWSOD) and chemically growth-regulated (GRSOD) sodgrasses, pre-emergence (NDPQT) and two widths of post-emergence (GLY1.5 and GLY2.5) herbicides, hay-straw mulch (STMCH), and monthly rototillage (tilled)—during the first 6 years in a newly established apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) planting. Mean soil water potential at 5 to 35 cm deep varied substantially among treatments each summer, and treatment × year interactions were observed. During most growing seasons from 1986 to 1991, soil water availability trends were STMCH > NDPQT > GLY2.5 > GLY1.5 > tilled > GRSOD > MWSOD > CNVCH. Soil organic matter content increased under STMCH, CNVCH, and MWSOD and decreased under NDPQT and tilled treatments. Water infiltration and saturated hydraulic conductivity after 4 years were lower under NDPQT and tilled, and soil under STMCH and GRSOD retained more water per unit volume at applied pressures approximating field water capacity. Mid-summer soil temperatures at 5 cm deep were highest (25 to 28C) in tilled and NDPQT plots, intermediate (22 to 24C) under GRSOD, and lowest (16 to 20C) under CNVCH and STMCH. These observations indicate that long-term soil fertility and orchard productivity may be diminished under pre-emergence herbicides and mechanical cultivation in comparison with certain other GMSs.

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Gregory Peck, Ian M. Merwin, Emily Vollmer and Kristine Averill

Apple growers in New York lack the tools to produce high quality fruit for the organic or IFP marketplace. We are systematically evaluating OFP and IFP systems for pest control efficacy, fruit and soil quality, environmental impacts, and economic sustainability, in an orchard of disease-resistant `Liberty' on M.9 rootstock. The OFP system follows USDA-NOP standards and the IFP system follows newly developed NY IFP standards. In the first year of this study (2004), both systems were equally productive, but variable costs for OFP were twice that of IFP, due to 11 kaolin applications, while returns were comparable. In 2005, OFP yields were 25% greater than IFP yields, but 30% of OFP fruit was unmarketable largely due to insect damage. This loss, plus small fruit size, resulted in OFP returns of $5432 per hectare, about half the IFP returns. With only four kaolin applications in 2005, OFP costs were $2437 per hectare, marginally greater than the $2083 per hectare costs for IFP apples. Harvest maturity indices were similar and peak fruit quality was attained in both systems in early Oct. In 2004, consumer panelists could not detect differences between fruit from the two systems, but in 2005 panelists rated OFP apples as sweeter, more tart, better flavored, and more acceptable overall. Antioxidant activity, total phenolics concentrations, and mineral content of apples were similar between systems in both years. Values for all essential plant nutrients, organic matter content, pH, and CEC were also equivalent in each system both years. Cultivation was likely responsible for lowering the bulk density, soil strength, and aggregate stability of the OFP top soil in 2005. While OFP remains very challenging, IFP can be implemented successfully in New York orchards.

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Gregory M. Peck, Ian A. Merwin, Michael G. Brown and Arthur M. Agnello

A systems-based approach was used to evaluate integrated (IFP) and organic fruit production (OFP) (during and after the transition period) in an established high-density commercial orchard of disease-resistant ‘Liberty’ apples (Malus ×domestica Borkh.). Agroecological and economic evaluations included: yields, tree growth, leaf nutrient levels, arthropod and cosmetic fruit damage, environmental impacts, variable costs of production, and potential crop value using both direct market and wholesale market prices. Cumulative yields (2004–2007) of both harvested and total (harvested + dropped) fruit were not different between the two systems. Tree size (trunk cross-sectional area) was not consistently different between the production systems. The IFP-grown apples had between 3% and 6% insect damage (within normal percentages for this region) and between 3% and 17% total damage (either internal or cosmetic). The OFP-grown apples had between 3% and 25% insect damage and 3% to 75% total damage, varying greatly from year to year. In 2006, superficial blemishes, caused by diseases and scarfskin, were extensive on OFP-grown fruit. Using the Environmental Impact Quotient, the potential negative environmental impacts were estimated to be six times greater in the OFP system, largely as a result of the use of lime sulfur and fish oil for thinning and the large quantity of kaolin clay used for pest control. Partial budgets of both systems estimated variable production expenses to be 9% greater for OFP. Sales value was estimated to be 6% greater for OFP than IFP using direct market prices (e.g., farm stand or farmers' market) and 11% greater for IFP than OFP using wholesale market prices. A 56% premium was used to calculate the OFP crop value in the third and fourth years (fruit could have been sold with an organic label after 36 months from the last organically prohibited material). Four years of evaluation suggested that IFP could be widely implemented in the northeastern United States, but the lack of market incentives might impede its adoption. Producing disease-resistant apples under an OFP system also showed potential for success, but a price premium would be needed to offset the reduced profitability incurred from arthropod pests, poor fruit finish, and small fruit size.

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Gregory M. Peck, Ian A. Merwin, Christopher B. Watkins, Kathryn W. Chapman and Olga I. Padilla-Zakour

Maturity and quality of fruit harvested from an orchard of disease-resistant ‘Liberty’ apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) trees was investigated during and after the transition from conventional to integrated (IFP) and organic fruit production (OFP) systems. Over 4 years, internal ethylene concentration, starch pattern index, flesh firmness, soluble solids concentration (SSC), titratable acidity (TA), and percent of surface blush of fruit at harvest were not consistently different between fruit from IFP and OFP systems. Total phenolic content and antioxidant capacity of the fruit were also similar between treatments. IFP-grown fruit contained more potassium during the first 2 years and more calcium in all years than OFP-grown fruit. After fruit were stored in air at 0.5 °C for 9 weeks in 2007, OFP-grown apples were firmer and had higher SSC, TA, and SSC:TA ratios. In double-blind triangle taste tests, consumer panelists were able to discriminate between the fruit from each treatment, but in double-blind hedonic and intensity tests, panelists did not consistently rate one treatment more highly than the other. Overall, consumer panelists favorably rated internal quality of fruit grown under both IFP and OFP systems. In 2006, when weather and disease caused a high percentage of OFP-grown fruit to have cosmetic defects, the panelists rated the appearance of OFP-grown apples as less acceptable than the cleaner-looking IFP-grown apples. Our study of ‘Liberty’ apple fruit maturity and quality during a 4-year transition period from conventional to IFP and OFP systems showed that differences were small if present, whereas internal fruit quality was rarely different between systems.