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Todd C. Einhorn, Debra Laraway and Janet Turner

The effect of crop load level on vegetative growth, fruit growth, yield, fruit quality, surface pitting, crop value and return bloom was studied over a 2-year period on 9- and 10-year-old ‘Sweetheart’/‘Mazzard’ sweet cherry (Prunus avium) trees. In early spring, whole-tree crop loads were adjusted to two different levels by removal of reproductive buds (either 50% or all but one) from spurs and compared with an unthinned control. In 2009, heavy crop loads of unthinned trees reduced fruit size by 30 days after full bloom (DAFB). At harvest, fruit diameter of thinned treatments was increased 22% and 27% compared with unthinned fruit. Fruit quality attributes [soluble solids concentration (SS), fruit firmness, and total acids (TA)] were significantly greater for thinned treatments. Thinned treatment yields were reduced 40% to 54% relative to unthinned trees, with greater percentages of fruit in large size classes. Despite significantly fewer fruit per tree, moderately thinned trees had a higher estimated crop value ($142 per tree) than unthinned trees ($125 per tree). Crop value was lowest for the heavily thinned treatment ($107 per tree), reflecting overthinning. In 2010, shoot growth was negatively related to crop load level. Fruit growth of unthinned trees was not significantly affected by higher fruit density until 89 DAFB. Yield of 2010 unthinned trees was 87% of 2009, while thinned tree yields were similar between years. Improved fruit quality and greater percentages of large fruit were observed for thinned treatments in 2010; however, crop value was highest for unthinned trees ($190 per tree), even though 18% of the fruit were too small for fresh market sale. Surface pitting was unaffected by crop load level in either year. Return bloom (flowers per reproductive bud and reproductive buds per spur) was significantly, negatively related to the prior season's crop load in 2010 and 2011. In the current sweet cherry pricing structure, higher crop value is associated with large volumes of medium-sized fruit. Thinning to manage crop load of low-medium density, productive ‘Sweetheart’/‘Mazzard’ trees will not be an annual requirement, though in heavy fruit set years crop load management will improve crop value.

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Todd C. Einhorn, Janet Turner and Debra Laraway

Reflective fabric was installed before bloom in 2009 and 2010 in alleyways of a mature, low-density ‘Anjou’ pear orchard (269 trees/ha). Four treatments were applied to study intracanopy light environments on fruit growth rate and size, cropload, yield, and fruit quality: 1) no fabric (NF); 2) partial-season fabric applied before full bloom (FB) and removed 75 days after full bloom (dafb) (PSF); 3) full-season fabric applied before FB and removed at harvest (FSF); and 4) shadecloth (60%) applied 60 dafb through harvest (SC). PSF and FSF improved yield by 12% and 18%, respectively, over the two-year period relative to NF. The high yields of fabric treatments were attributed to fruit number in the lower (less than 2.4 m) interior, mid-, and exterior zones of the canopy. Photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) was increased by fabric 28%, 95%, and 30% in the lower exterior, mid-, and interior canopy, respectively. Photosynthesis:light response curves indicated improved carbon assimilation of pear leaves developing in the elevated PAR environment of the lower canopy. Fruit growth rate and final size were unaffected by fabric treatments. FSF fruit size was similar to NF despite higher fruit density. Compared with NF, FSF had a small, non-significant effect on fruit maturity (increased softening) at harvest. Yield and fruit size of SC fruit were significantly reduced. The number of fruit in SC trees did not differ from NF in 2009, but the effect of shade reduced fruit number in 2010. Fabric did not affect fruit quality attributes after three and six months of regular atmosphere cold storage. Pears from SC trees did not attain ripening capacity after three months of cold storage and a 7-day ripening period and had lower sugar content compared with other treatments. The cumulative yield advantages associated with FSF support its use in mature pear orchards.

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Todd C. Einhorn, Yan Wang and Janet Turner

Sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) producers in the Pacific Northwest have devoted considerable acreage to late-maturing cultivars. By using these cultivars to extend the harvest window, producers avoid lower returns associated with cherries harvested during the peak period (i.e., midseason) when supplies are overly abundant. Over several years, we evaluated preharvest applications of gibberellic acid (GA3) between 10 and 100 ppm (a.i.) on the late-maturing sweet cherry cultivars Lapins, Skeena, Staccato, and Sweetheart. Individual trials examined the timing of GA3 applications and/or rate on fruit quality attributes at harvest and after 4 weeks of cold storage at 0 °C. The influence of GA3 timing and/or rate on sweet cherry skin color and harvest delay was also evaluated. Multiple applications split between the end of Stage II (pit hardening) and mid-Stage III (final fruit swell) of fruit development did not improve fruit quality attributes or delay skin color development of ‘Skeena’ and ‘Sweetheart’ compared with equivalent concentrations applied once at the end of Stage II. Low concentrations (between 10 and 25 ppm) consistently improved fruit firmness (FF) of all cultivars by 10% to 43%. No further improvements in FF were observed when rates exceeded 25 ppm. Skin color development was retarded by GA3 but did not respond in a consistent manner to increasing rate. Fruit size was not uniformly increased by GA3. In trials where GA3 had a positive effect on fruit size, the effect was observed at low concentrations and was not further improved with increasing rate. A cultivar-dependent response to GA3 was observed for return bloom. ‘Skeena’ reproductive buds per fruiting spur and flowers per floral bud in years after treatment were unaffected by GA3 concentration. On the contrary, the number of flowers per bud of ‘Lapins’ was significantly reduced to 79% and 38% of control levels for 50 and 100 ppm GA3, respectively. At 100 ppm, GA3 additionally limited the number of reproductive buds returning on fruiting spurs of ‘Lapins’. GA3 reduced stem browning and surface pitting disorder of ‘Sweetheart’ and ‘Lapins’ after 4 weeks of cold storage at 0 °C; however, these effects were optimized at 25 ppm. Respiration rate and weight loss were unaffected by GA3 at harvest or after 2 and 4 weeks of cold storage. Unidentified endogenous factors that regulate FF and are inducible by GA3 appear to be largely responsible for improved resistance to pitting. Collectively, the results demonstrate high sensitivity of cherry FF and skin color to GA3. Split applications did not provide further harvest delays or affect any of the attributes evaluated, possibly because low rates (20 ppm) applied at the first timing were sufficient to saturate the response. In general, fruit quality of late-maturing cultivars of sweet cherry was improved by low rates of GA3 applied in a single application at the end of pit hardening.

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Todd C. Einhorn, Mateus S. Pasa and Janet Turner

Prohexadione-calcium (P-Ca) was applied to ‘Anjou’ pear (Pyrus communis L.) trees in the lower and upper Hood River Valley (HRV), Oregon, to determine its effectiveness for managing the excessive vigor of ‘Anjou’ under different growing climates. Vegetative growth and development (weekly shoot growth rate, total annual extension growth, number of initiated shoots, internodal length, and number of nodes), yield (fruit number and fruit size), and return bloom dynamics were evaluated between 2010 and 2013. P-Ca consistently reduced shoot elongation by ≈40% in all years and at both sites when doses of 250 ppm were applied in early spring (i.e., ≈5 cm of annual shoot extension) compared with untreated trees. Shorter shoots were the result of both reduced internodal growth and fewer nodes. In the cooler, upper HRV, a single P-Ca application controlled shoot elongation for the entire season, but in the warmer, lower HRV, a second flush of growth was generally observed ≈60 days after the first application. A subsequent P-Ca application (250 ppm) provided added growth control in some instances. Yield was unaffected by P-Ca the season of application; however, in one year, an increase in fruit number indirectly led to reduced fruit size; otherwise, fruit size was unaffected by P-Ca. Postharvest fruit quality was not influenced substantially by P-Ca. Return bloom, however, was consistently reduced by P-Ca. Return yield, the year after P-Ca application (recorded in 2013 only), was reduced in proportion to the decrease in return bloom relative to untreated trees. In 2012, ethephon was also evaluated, alone or in combination with P-Ca. When applied on its own either once (150 ppm, 5-cm growth), or twice [150 ppm, 5-cm growth; 300 ppm, 57 days after full bloom (DAFB)], ethephon did not affect vegetative growth or yield components but did improve return bloom and return yield relative to other treatments; however, when combined with P-Ca, ethephon did not reverse reductions in return bloom or return yield induced by P-Ca. The most effective ethephon treatment for promoting flowering and return yield (300 ppm, 57 DAFB) was not tested in combination with P-Ca. We conclude that P-Ca is an effective tool for controlling vigor of ‘Anjou’ trees, but the decrease in return bloom requires additional investigation. Further work testing combinations of ethephon and P-Ca are warranted to optimize growth and productivity of ‘Anjou’ trees.

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Xinhua Yin, Clark F. Seavert, Janet Turner, Roberto Núñez-Elisea and Helen Cahn

The impacts of synthetic polypropylene groundcover in the row area of young sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) trees (Regina on Gisela 6) on soil nutrient availability, tree mineral nutrition and productivity, and cash costs and returns were investigated on a Van Horn fine sandy loam soil at Hood River, Ore., from 2001 to 2005. Treatments included 2.44-m wide synthetic fabric groundcover made of black, woven polypropylene over the row area of cherry trees and no groundcover but with herbicide applications in the row area with the same width as the polypropylene groundcover. Soil-available NO3 , P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Zn, Mn, and Cu contents in 0 to 30 cm in August did not differ significantly between the cover and no cover treatments in any year except 2005, when soil N and K levels were lower with polypropylene cover. Leaf N concentration in August was enhanced by 11% to 19% each year in the polypropylene cover treatment. However, leaf P concentration was lowered by 19% to 37% with polypropylene cover each year; and leaf Ca and Mg concentrations were reduced by 9% to 13% and 6% to 24%, respectively, as a result of polypropylene cover in 3 of 5 years. Reduced leaf P, Ca, and Mg concentrations in the cover treatment were attributed to the diluting effects of enhanced tree growth and fruit yield. Cumulative cash costs for the orchard within the first 4 years before fruit production were $5246/ha higher with polypropylene cover relative to no cover. However, these costs were offset quickly by increased returns from enhanced fruit yields. In the long-term, more fertilizers may need to be applied on polypropylene groundcovered trees to compensate for the enhanced tree growth and fruit production.

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Xinhua Yin, Janet Turner, Clark Seavert, Roberto Nunez-Elisea and Helen Cahn

Theinfluences of a synthetic fabric cover in the row area of sweet cherry trees on soil fertility and plant nutrition are largely unknown. A field trial has been conducted on young `Regina' sweet cherry on a sandy loam soil at the Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Hood River, Ore., since 2001. The difference in soil NO - 3, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Zn, Mn, Cu, pH, or organic matter was nonsignificant between the covered and non-covered treatments in any year. Leaf N content was 11% to 16% greater with the covered treatment compared with the non-covered treatment in 2002 and 2003, but leaf N was similar for the two treatments in 2001. Leaf P content was similar for the two treatments in 2001, but was about 36% less with the covered treatment than the non-covered treatment in 2002 and 2003. Leaf Ca content was decreased by 11% to 17% due to a synthetic fabric cover in 2002 and 2003. Leaf Mg content was 13% to 24% less with the covered treatment than the non-covered treatment in 2002 and 2003. However, the decreased leaf P, Ca, and Mg contents with the covered trees were due to the dilute effects of increased tree growth. The effects of a fabric cover on leaf K, S, B, Zn, Mn, and Cu contents were primarily nonsignificant. Our results suggest that although nutrient availability in the soil is not reduced by a wide synthetic fabric cover, higher rates of fertilizers may be needed for the covered sweet cherry trees due to the elevated tree growth and fruit production from a long-term perspective.

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Rachel B. Elkins, Janet D. Turner, Steve Castagnoli, Clark F. Seavert, Elizabeth J. Mitcham, William V. Biasi and Ann Colonna

Assessing consumer acceptance is an important aspect of cultivar evaluation. Since 2002, about 2700 consumers have participated in pear preference surveys. Surveys were conducted on multiple dates and at multiple venues from 2002 to 2005 in Oregon and northern California. Survey participants were asked to indicate their preference for pears based on size, appearance, taste, and overall preference. They were also asked to indicate what attributes they liked or disliked about their favorite and least favorite varieties and to indicate their level of purchase intent. Each survey consisted of four to six cultivars, including at least one standard commercial comparison; i.e., Bartlett, Bosc, or Anjou. Data was analyzed (RCBD; Friedman Analysis of Rank or ANOVA/Tukey's HSD) at the OSU Food Innovation Center Experiment Station using Compusense® five v.4.6 software (Guelph, Ont., Canada). Results indicated several alternative possibilities for both summer and winter sales. Among the most preferred cultivars (variable between states) were Anjou (commercial standard winter pear), Bartlett (commercial standard summer pear and most-consumed cultivar), Blake's Pride, Cinnamon, Concorde, and 71655-014. Other major findings were preference for large pears for adults and small for children, overall liking based on sweetness and flavor rather than skin color, and general lack of knowledge of many commercial pear cultivars. Sensory evaluation surveys will be continued in 2006 in California, with focus on differential harvest times for selected preferred cultivars. Consumer preference data is being combined with production and postharvest quality data in order to provide the pear industry a comprehensive data set on potential alternative cultivars.

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Richard L. Bell, Tom van der Zwet, Steve Castagnoli, Todd Einhorn, Janet D. Turner, Robert Spotts, Gary A. Moulton, Greg L. Reighard and William W. Shane