A wide variety of temperate, subtropical, and tropical fruit crops are grown commercially in Florida. Farm size ranges from large commercial operations exceeding 100 acres to small 1- or 2-acre “estate” farms. Irrigation and fertilization practices vary widely with crop, soil type, and management philosophy. However, many growers are adopting practices such as microirrigation, fertigation, and other technologies, which, if properly used, should reduce water and fertilizer inputs and minimize leaching and runoff of fertilizers and pesticides. Although fertilizer and irrigation recommendations exist for major crops such as avocado (Persea americana), mango (Mangifera indica), and blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), there is little research-based information specific to Florida for many minor crops, including muscadine (Vitis rodundifolia), blackberry (Rubus spp.), sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), guava (Psidium guajava), papaya (Carica papaya), and others. Even where recommendations exist, refinement of irrigation and fertilization practices is needed because of changes in technology.
Jeffrey G. Williamson and Jonathan H. Crane
Jeffrey G. Williamson and D. Scott NeSmith
Greenhouse and field experiments were conducted to determine the effects of the growth regulator N-(2-chloro-4-pyridyl)-N′-phenylurea (CPPU) on fruit set, berry size, and yield of southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum hybrids). The experiments were conducted over a period of several years in Georgia and Florida. CPPU sprays were capable of increasing fruit set and berry weight of southern highbush blueberry, although the responses to CPPU treatment were variable and appeared to be influenced by factors such as rate, spray timing, and cultivar. In Florida, high natural fruit set may have prevented increased fruit set from CPPU. A slight delay in berry maturity was noted in several experiments. Spray burn occurred on several occasions and may be related to factors such as cultivar, rate, spray volume, and use of surfactant.
Wendy L. Wilber and Jeffrey G. Williamson
The effects of fertilizer rate and composition on growth and fruiting of ‘Misty’ and ‘Star’ southern highbush blueberry were evaluated in a containerized production system using pine bark medium. Two fertilizer analyses (12N–1.8P–46.6K and 12N–5.2P–9.9K) and three fertilizer rates were used. Plant growth and fruiting were unaffected by fertilizer analysis. Growth and fruit yield of ‘Star’ increased linearly with increasing fertilizer rate. For ‘Misty’, plant growth and yield were reduced at the highest fertilizer rate as a result of a high incidence of blueberry stem blight associated with that treatment. Flower bud density was highest for the ‘Misty’ plants receiving the high fertilizer rate and this may have resulted in excessive fruit set leading to stress-induced blueberry stem blight. Optimum fertilizer rates for young southern highbush blueberry plants grown in containerized pine bark systems appear to be cultivar-specific and similar to fertilizer requirements in soil culture.
Jeffrey G. Williamson* and E. Paul Miller
Poor fruit set and sub-optimum berry size are potential yield- and profit-limiting factors for southern highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum) blueberry production in Florida. The cytokinin N-(2-chloro-4-pyridyl)-N'-phenylurea (CPPU) has increased fruit size and fruit set of a number of fruit crops including rabbiteye blueberry. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of CPPU applied at different rates and phenological stages of bloom and/or fruit development on fruit size, set, and yield of southern highbush blueberry. `Millennia' and `Star' southern highbush blueberry plants located on a commercial blueberry farm in Alachua County, Fla., were treated with 5 or 10 ppm CPPU at various stages of development ranging from full bloom to 20 days after full bloom. In contrast to findings with rabbiteye blueberry, fruit set in this study of southern highbush blueberry was not affected by any of the CPPU treatments when compared to the controls. Nor was total fruit yield affected by CPPU treatments. The most noticeable potential benefit found in this study was an increase in mean fruit fresh weight from CPPU treatments. However, cultivars responded differently to CPPU with respect to mean fruit fresh weight. For `Millennia', only one CPPU treatment increased mean fruit weight compared to controls. However, for `Star', all but one CPPU treatment increased mean fruit fresh weight. Several CPPU treatments resulted in delayed fruit ripening for `Star' but not for `Millennia'. For `Star', the treatments that most consistently delayed fruit ripening tended to have greater fruit fresh weights.
Jeffrey G. Williamson and William O. Cline
Jeffrey G. Williamson and E.P. Miller
In 1998, representative canes of mature, field-grown, `Misty' and `Sharpblue' southern highbush blueberry were hand-defoliated on 4 Sept., 2 Oct., 6 Nov., 7 Dec., or not defoliated. The experiment was repeated in 1999. Randomized complete-block designs with 11 (1998) or 10 (1999) replications were used. The early defoliation treatments (4 Sept. and 2 Oct.) resulted in reduced flower bud number per unit length of cane for `Misty', but not for `Sharpblue', when compared with later defoliation treatments or controls. A similar response to early defoliation was found both years for both cultivars. The later defoliation treatments (6 Nov. and 7 Dec.) had no significant effect on flower bud number compared to controls. Early defoliation had a negative effect on flower bud development for both cultivars. Flower buds that developed on canes defoliated on 4 Sept. or on 2 Oct. had smaller diameters than flower buds on canes defoliated on 6 Nov., 7 Dec., or on non-defoliated canes. Fruit fresh weight per unit cane length was less for the September and October defoliation treatments than for the December defoliation treatment or controls. These results support the need for summer pruning and a effective summer spray program to control leaf spot diseases that often result in early fall defoliation of southern highbush blueberries grown in the southeastern United States.
Jeffrey G. Williamson and E. Paul Miller
Bearing `Misty' and `Star' southern highbush blueberries were grown on pine bark beds and fertilized at three rates using granular and liquid fertilizers with a 3–1–2 (1N–0.83K–0.88P) ratio. Granular fertilizer was applied 8 times per year at 4-week intervals beginning in April and continuing through October. Liquid fertilizer was applied with low volume irrigation 16 times per year at 2-week intervals during the same period. During the growing season, irrigation was applied at 2- to 3-day intervals in the absence of rain. A 2 cultivar × 2 fertilizer type × 3 fertilizer rate factorial arrangement of treatments was replicated 8 times in a randomized complete-block design. All fruits were harvested from single-plant plots at 3- to 4-day intervals. Canopy volume was not affected by fertilizer type, but fruit yield was slightly greater for granular than for liquid fertilizer treatments. In 2003, fruit yield of 2.5-year-old `Misty' and `Star' plants increased with increasing fertilizer rates up to the highest rate tested (50 g N/plant/year). Similarly, in 2004, fruit yields increased with increasing fertilizer rates up to the highest rate (81 g N/plant/year). Root distribution was limited to the 12-cm-deep layer of pine bark with very few roots penetrating into the underlying soil. The positive growth responses of blueberry plants to high fertilizer rates in pine bark beds suggests that soluble fertilizer was leached through the pine bark layer into the soil below the root zone. More frequent, lighter applications of soluble fertilizers, use of slow-release or controlled-release fertilizers, and careful irrigation management may improve fertilizer use efficiency of blueberry plantings on pine bark beds.
Jeffrey G. Williamson and D. Scott NeSmith
The effects of flower bud removal treatments on growth of young rabbiteye (Vaccinium ashei Reade) and southern highbush (V. corymbosum hybrids) blueberry plants were evaluated. Treatments consisted of pruning, hand stripping, and hydrogen cyanamide applications. The growth index of rabbiteye plants after the first spring growth cycle was unaffected by any of the flower bud removal treatments. However, the effects of flower bud thinning were cultivar specific for southern highbush blueberry plants. ‘Misty’ plants showed increases in total plant dry weight and in root, leaf, and stem dry weights from hand thinning and hydrogen cyanamide sprays. Conversely, ‘Santa Fe’ showed no increased growth response from any of the flower bud removal treatments. Flower bud mortality increased as hydrogen cyanamide spray concentration increased and was greater when applications were delayed so that flower buds were more advanced. Hydrogen cyanamide may have potential as an alternative to labor-intense flower bud removal practices such as hand stripping or pruning on young blueberry plants during establishment.
Ming-Wei S. Kao, Jeffrey K. Brecht, and Jeffrey G. Williamson
The physical and chemical characteristics of two melting flesh (MF) cultivars, TropicBeauty and Flordaprince, and two non-melting flesh (NMF) cultivars, UFSun and Gulfking, with advancing maturities, were determined at harvest, after ripening at 20 °C for 7 days (i.e., direct ripening) and after storage at 0 °C for 14 days then ripening at 20 °C for 7 days (i.e., ripening following low temperature storage). The NMF cultivars were able to retain flesh firmness better than the MF cultivars as fruit matured and ripened on the tree and after the two storage treatments. The NMF fruit of the least mature to the most advanced maturity groups (MGs) were ≈2 to 7 times firmer than the MF fruit in the same MGs after ripening in both storage conditions. For both MF and NMF fruit, a significant reduction of titratable acidity (TA) occurred with no significant changes in soluble solids content (SSC) and total soluble sugar (TSS) as maturity and ripening progressed on the tree and after ripening in both storage conditions. Minimum quality standards of “ready for consumption” peaches were used as general guidelines to determine the optimum harvest maturity of all four cultivars. The NMF fruit ripened directly had wider optimum harvest maturity ranges and could be harvested at more advanced stages than the MF fruit. The MF fruit that ripened following low temperature storage needed to be picked at earlier maturity stages than those that were directly ripened. The optimum harvest maturity of NMF UFSun for the low temperature storage treatment was more advanced than that of the other three cultivars due to abnormal softening found in the lower MGs after ripening. Linear correlation analyses showed that the skin ground color (GC) a* values of both MF cultivars and NMF ‘UFSun’ were highly correlated with the flesh color (FC) a* values, suggesting that GC a* values can be an informative harvest indicator for this NMF cultivar instead of the traditionally used FC. The GC a* values also had high linear correlation with TA for all four cultivars, suggesting that TA can be a potential maturity index for both MF and NMF peaches. Significant correlations of GC a* values and flesh firmness (GC-FF) were found in all four cultivars in one year but only in MF peaches in both years, showing that flesh firmness was the most consistent maturity indicator for the MF cultivars in this study.
Rebecca L. Darnell, Bruno Casamali, and Jeffrey G. Williamson
Successful blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) cultivation typically requires soils with low pH, high organic matter, readily available iron, and nitrogen (N) in the ammonium form. Growth of blueberry on typical mineral soils (higher pH, low organic matter) is reduced. Although soil pH effects on nutrient availability and uptake are known, it is unclear if the requirement for low soil pH in blueberry production is due to effects on nutrient availability/uptake or is a more direct effect of rhizosphere pH on root function. In addition, it is unclear if the requirement for high organic matter (soil amendments) is related directly to nutrient availability/uptake. Several studies have examined the use of rootstocks to increase soil adaptation of blueberry and some of these rootstocks have been found to increase plant vigor and yield. In particular, we have investigated whether sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum)—a wild blueberry species that is adapted to high pH and low organic matter soils—could be used as a rootstock for commercial production of blueberry on mineral soils. Our work indicates that both nitrate (NO3 −) and iron (Fe) uptake and assimilation are greater in sparkleberry compared with southern highbush blueberry [SHB (Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrid)]. This is correlated with increased activity of nitrate reductase (NR) and iron chelate reductase, the rate limiting enzymes for NO3 − and Fe acquisition, respectively. Field studies comparing growth and yield of own-rooted vs. grafted ‘Meadowlark’ and ‘Farthing’ SHB in amended vs. nonamended soils are ongoing. In general, own-rooted plants on amended soils exhibit greater growth than own-rooted on nonamended soils, while grafted plants in either soil system exhibit intermediate growth. Yields generally followed this pattern. Our preliminary results suggest that tolerance of SHB to mineral soils is greater when plants are grafted onto sparkleberry than when grown on their own roots. However, growth and yield of grafted plants grown under mineral soil conditions may not equal or exceed that of own-rooted plants grown under optimum soil conditions, at least in the first years after field planting. Longer term studies are necessary to fully evaluate the potential of using sparkleberry and other blueberry species as rootstocks for SHB and northern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum).