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  • Author or Editor: Jerry E. Weiland x
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Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands is a ubiquitous soilborne pathogen associated with root rot in many woody perennial plant species, including highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). To identify genotypes with resistance to the pathogen, cultivars and advanced selections of highbush blueberry were grown in a greenhouse and either inoculated or not with propagules of P. cinnamomi. Two experiments were conducted, including one with 10 commercially established cultivars and another with seven newly released cultivars, three commercially established cultivars, and three advanced selections of highbush blueberry. Pathogen resistance was based on the shoot and root dry biomass of the inoculated plants relative to the noninoculated plants within each genotype, as well as on the percentage of root infection among the genotypes. Resistant genotypes included four commercially established cultivars, Aurora, Legacy, Liberty, and Reka, and two new cultivars, Overtime and Clockwork. When these genotypes were inoculated, average relative shoot biomass was ≥60% of that of the noninoculated plants, whereas relative root biomass was ≥40%. ‘Star’, as well as two advanced selections (an early- and a late-season type) may also have some degree of resistance, but further investigation is needed. Relative shoot biomass of the susceptible genotypes, on the other hand, ranged from 19% to 53% and relative root biomass ranged from 11% to 26%. The susceptible genotypes included ‘Bluetta’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Bluegold’, ‘Blue Ribbon’, ‘Cargo’, ‘Draper’, ‘Duke’, ‘Elliott’, ‘Last Call’, ‘Top Shelf’, and ‘Ventura’. These cultivars are not recommended at sites with conditions conducive to root rot, such as those with clay soils and/or poor drainage.

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Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands causes root rot of northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.), which decreases plant growth, yield, and profitability for growers. Fungicides are available to suppress the disease, but are prone to development of resistance in target pathogens and cannot be used in certified organic production systems. Alternative, nonchemical, cultural management strategies were evaluated to reduce phytophthora root rot in a field infested with P. cinnamomi. The field was planted with ‘Draper’ blueberry, which is highly susceptible to the pathogen. The soil was either amended with gypsum or not before planting, and the plants were irrigated using narrow (adjacent to plant crown) or widely spaced (20 cm on either side of the plant crown) drip lines and mulched with douglas fir sawdust or black, woven geotextile fabric (weed mat). A fungicide control treatment was also included in the study and consisted of applying two conventional fungicides, mefenoxam and fosetyl-Al, to plants irrigated with narrow drip lines and mulched with sawdust. Initially, root infection by P. cinnamomi was lower with the combination of gypsum, wide drip lines, and sawdust mulch than with any other treatment, except the fungicide control. The soil under weed mat accumulated more heat units than under sawdust and resulted in faster hyphal growth by the pathogen. However, plant growth was similar in both mulch types. The effects of drip line placement and gypsum, on the other hand, were interactive, and plants grown with a combination of wide drip lines and gypsum produced the greatest amount of biomass among the cultural treatments. Narrow drip lines negated the disease-suppressive effects of gypsum by moving zoospore-inhibiting Ca2+ away from the plant root zone, and also resulted in wetter soil near the crown of the plants, which likely promoted zoospore discharge and root infection. However, wide drip lines resulted in N deficiency symptoms during the first year after planting and, therefore, resulted in less plant growth than the fungicide control. Thus, if N is managed properly, this study suggests that concerted use of gypsum and wide drip lines can help suppress phytophthora root rot in northern highbush blueberry and increase production in field soils where the pathogen is present.

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The use of conventional drip and alternative micro irrigation systems were evaluated for 3 years in six newly planted cultivars (Earliblue, Duke, Draper, Bluecrop, Elliott, and Aurora) of northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). The drip system included two lines of tubing on each side of the row with in-line drip emitters at every 0.45 m. The alternative systems included geotextile tape and microsprinklers. The geotextile tape was placed alongside the plants and dispersed water and nutrients over the entire length. Microsprinklers were installed between every other plant at a height of 1.2 m. Nitrogen was applied by fertigation at annual rates of 100 and 200 kg·ha−1 N by drip, 200 kg·ha−1 N by geotextile tape, and 280 kg·ha−1 N by microsprinklers. By the end of the first season, plant size, in terms of canopy cover, was greatest with geotextile tape, on average, and lowest with microsprinklers or drip at the lower N rate. The following year, canopy cover was similar with geotextile tape and drip at the higher N rate in each cultivar, and was lowest with microsprinklers in all but ‘Draper’. In most of the cultivars, geotextile tape and drip at the higher N rate resulted in greater leaf N concentrations than microsprinklers or drip at the lower N rate, particularly during the first year after planting. By the third year, yield averaged 3.1–9.1 t·ha−1 among the cultivars, but was similar with geotextile tape and drip at either N rate, and was only lower with microsprinklers. Overall, drip was more cost effective than geotextile tape, and fertigation with 100 kg·ha−1 N by drip was sufficient to maximize early fruit production in each cultivar. Microsprinklers were less effective by comparison and resulted in white salt deposits on the fruit.

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Biochar, a carbon-rich, fine-grained residue obtained from pyrolysis of biomass, is known to improve soil conditions and to suppress infection by soilborne pathogens. However, its use as a soil amendment has received relatively little attention by the horticulture industry. Two 12-week experiments were conducted in a greenhouse to determine the potential of using biochar, produced from mixed conifers during conversion of wood to energy, as a soil amendment for highbush blueberry (Vaccinium hybrid ‘Legacy’). Plants in the first experiment were fertilized once a week with a complete fertilizer solution, whereas those the in the second experiment were fertilized once a month with a solution of ammonium sulfate. In both cases, the plants received the same amount of N in total and were grown in pots filled with unamended soil (sandy loam) or soil amended at rates of 10% or 20%, by volume, with biochar or a 4:1 mix of biochar and bokashi (biochar-bokashi). The bokashi was produced from fermented rice (Oryza sativa L.) bran and was added to increase nutrients in the amendment. Half of the plants in each soil treatment were inoculated with Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands, which causes root rot in blueberry. Although pH of the raw biochar was high (8.5), soil pH averaged 4.5 to 5.5 in each treatment. In the absence of P. cinnamomi, plants grown with 20% biochar or 10% or 20% biochar-bokashi had greater leaf area and 30% to 70% more total dry weight than those grown with 10% biochar or in unamended soil. Biochar also improved soil aggregation and increased root colonization by ericoid mycorrhizal fungi. The percentage of roots colonized by mycorrhizal fungi was 54% to 94% in plants grown with the amendments, but was ≤10% in those grown in unamended soil. Plants inoculated with P. cinnamomi were stunted and showed typical symptoms of root rot. Root infection by the pathogen was unaffected by biochar or biochar-bokashi and negated any growth benefits of the amendments. Overall, amending soil with biochar appears to be a promising means of promoting plant growth and mycorrhizal colonization in blueberry, but it may not suppress phytophthora root rot.

Open Access