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Nancy W. Callan, Don E. Mathre, James B. Miller and Charles S. Vavrina

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Stephen S. Miller, James R. Schupp, Tara A. Baugher and Scott D. Wolford

Peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) thinning is a costly and time-consuming but necessary practice to produce a crop of marketable size fruit. A number of mechanical devices and methods have been developed and evaluated to reduce the cost and time required for hand thinning peach. This report provides additional evidence that a Darwin string thinner can effectively thin peach at bloom and a spiked drum shaker can thin at bloom or at the green fruit (pit hardening) stage. Five trials were conducted over 2 years in grower orchards with trees trained to a perpendicular V system. A Darwin string thinner at 60% to 80% full bloom (FB) reduced crop load (fruit/cm2 limb cross-sectional area) on scaffold limbs by 21% to 50% compared with a hand-thinned control. At the 60% FB stage, a USDA-designed double-spiked drum shaker reduced crop load by 27% and in another trial, a USDA prototype single-drum shaker reduced crop load by 9%. Across all trials, the spiked drum shakers (single or double units) removed an average of 37% of the green fruit. All mechanical devices reduced the time required for follow-up hand thinning. Follow-up hand-thinning costs (US$/ha) were reduced an average of 27% by mechanical thinning devices over hand-thinned control trees. Fruit size was increased over hand-thinned controls by mechanical thinning in most, but not all, trials. A combined treatment of the Darwin string thinner at bloom followed by a drum shaker (single or double unit) at the green fruit stage produced the greatest net economic impact in a number of the trials. Despite overthinning in some trials, the mechanical thinning devices described provide a potential alternative to hand thinning alone in peach production.

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Nancy W. Callan, James B. Miller, Don E. Mathre and S. Krishna Mohan

Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) seed is commonly infected or infested with fungi that can impair stand establishment. Among these, Penicillium oxalicum Currie and Thorn is known to cause preemergence damping-off or postemergence seedling blight. Supersweet, or shrunken2 (sh2), sweet corn cultivars are particularly affected by seedborne fungal pathogens, although the effects of seed infection on seedling emergence and stand are variable under field conditions. This study was conducted to examine factors that could influence the impact of P. oxalicum on seedling stand, including P. oxalicum inoculum density on seed and in soil, soil moisture, soil temperature, and control of seed decay caused by soilborne Pythium ultimum Trow. Seed surface disinfestation usually had no effect on seedling stand under conditions favoring infection by P. ultimum. Inoculation of sh2 sweet corn seeds or infestation of soil with conidia of P. oxalicum resulted in increasing severity of damping-off and seedling blight as inoculum density increased. In pasteurized soil in the greenhouse, an inoculum density of 102 P. oxalicum conidia per seed reduced emergence and induced seedling blight. In the field, where P. ultimum was also a factor, 106 conidia per seed were needed to reduce emergence and 105 conidia per seed to reduce healthy seedling stand. When pythium seed decay was controlled by metalaxyl seed treatment, seedling emergence and healthy seedling stand were both reduced at 1 × 106 P. oxalicum conidia per seed. When sh2 sweet corn seed was inoculated with conidia of P. oxalicum and incubated in soil at subgermination moisture contents (4.2 to -7.8 MPa) for 2-4 weeks before planting and irrigating, P. oxalicum reduced seedling emergence at all soil moisture levels, but caused the greatest amount of injury after planting when seeds were incubated in soil above -5.1 MPa. As soil temperature increased from 9-25C, seedling emergence from seed inoculated with P. oxalicum was progressively reduced, with a decrease of nearly 50% at 25 C. Penicillium oxalicum has the greatest potential to reduce seedling stand when infected sweet corn seeds are planted in warm, dry soil, but the effects of this and other seedborne fungal pathogens may be masked under conditions favoring infection by P. ultimum.

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Andrew L. Thomas, Richard J. Crawford Jr., Larry J. Havermann, Wendy L. Applequist, Besa E. Schweitzer, Scott F. Woodbury and James S. Miller

Black cohosh [Actaea racemosa L., Cimicifuga racemosa L. (Nutt)] is a perennial herb commonly used for treatment of menopausal symptoms in humans. The increasing demand for this plant is leading to serious over-harvesting from the wild and presents an opportunity for potentially profitable cultivation. The plant produces a large rhizome, the principal medicinal organ, which appears to be especially sensitive to heavy soil, and prone to fungal attack if soil water drainage is not adequate. After an earlier crop failure (attributed to a PhytophthoraPythium disease complex) in an established black cohosh nursery bed, two experiments were conducted in the same soil to determine if certain horticultural approaches could help to avert fungal infection under less-than-ideal conditions. Treatments included single postplanting applications of the fungicide mefenoxam, transplantation in fall versus spring, and shallow (0.5 cm) versus deep (6.5 cm) placement of rhizomes. Shallow placement significantly improved long-term rhizome survival, but was still not able to compensate adequately for a poorly-drained soil. The horticultural approaches we studied do not appear to be reliable alternatives to proper site selection in the cultivation of black cohosh.

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Andrew L. Thomas, Richard J. Crawford Jr, George E. Rottinghaus, John K. Tracy, Wendy L. Applequist, Besa E. Schweitzer, Larry J. Havermann, Scott F. Woodbury, James S. Miller, Mark R. Ellersieck and Dean E. Gray

Black cohosh [Actaea racemosa L.; Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.] is a perennial herb native to North America that is commonly used for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The plant is almost exclusively harvested from the wild and is being threatened by overharvesting in some regions. As demand for this plant continues to increase, the potential for profitable cultivation of this species is becoming realistic. Little is known about the effect of various cultivation practices, soils, environments, and harvest times on the multitude of phytochemicals that occur in black cohosh. Furthermore, although the rhizome is the organ that is traditionally consumed, other tissues also contain various quantities of important phytochemicals, but this has not been well documented. The objectives of this study, therefore, were to ascertain any environmental effects on the production of two representative phytochemicals (23-epi-26-deoxyactein and cimiracemoside A) and to elucidate any season-long patterns or variations in the production of these compounds within five black cohosh tissues (leaf, rachis, rhizome, root, and inflorescence). All black cohosh tissues contained 23-epi-26-deoxyactein with substantially more, as a percentage of dry weight, detected in inflorescence (28,582 to 41,354 mg·kg−1) and leaf (8250 to 16,799 mg·kg−1) compared with rhizome (2688 to 4094 mg·kg−1), and all tissues experienced a linear season-long decrease in occurrence of this compound. Cimiracemoside A was not detected in leaf tissues. The highest levels were found in rhizome (677 to 1138 mg·kg−1) and root (598 to 1281 mg·kg−1), which likewise experienced a significant season-long decrease in this compound, whereas levels in the rachis (0 to 462 mg·kg−1) increased over time. In general, environmental factors did not affect production of either compound. Varying seasonal patterns in phytochemical production, combined with differences in phytochemical content among plant tissues, point to the potential for more targeted horticultural production of these and other medicinal compounds within black cohosh.