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Brian Lawrence and Juan Carlos Melgar

Maintaining shelf life and postharvest quality of blackberries (Rubus subgenus Rubus) from harvest to consumer is challenging for growers and packers due to several postharvest issues including fresh weight (FW) loss, red drupelet reversion, and fruit leakiness. The time of day blackberries are harvested, the time from harvest to cold storage, and the time in cold storage are factors that may alter the incidence and severity of these postharvest problems. In this experiment, blackberries from 10 cultivars were picked at two different times (7:00–7:30 am and 10:00–10:30 am), delivered to cold storage either immediately or following a 90-minute delay, and evaluated after 1 or 2 weeks in cold storage for FW loss, red drupelet reversion, and leakiness. The response of blackberry postharvest quality to time of harvest, delay to cold storage, and storage length was cultivar-specific. In summary, time of harvest, delay to cold storage or storage length did not affect cultivars Arapaho and Ouachita. Different harvest times did not affect FW or incidence of reddening, but increased leakiness in ‘Chester’ and ‘Triple Crown’; thus, these two cultivars should be preferably harvested early in the morning. Our recommendation for ‘Chester’, ‘Triple Crown’, ‘Osage’, ‘Prime-Ark® Traveler’, and ‘Von’ is to store the fruit of these cultivars as soon as possible. Limiting cold storage to 1 week maintained postharvest quality for at least one attribute of most cultivars (all but Arapaho and Ouachita) compared with 2 weeks of storage.

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Juan Carlos Melgar, Jill M. Dunlop and James P. Syvertsen

Oleocellosis or oil spotting on the peel of citrus fruit is a common post-harvest injury caused by improper handling. Mechanical injury allows phytotoxic oil to leak out of oil glands and cause injury to surrounding flavedo cells, resulting in oleocellosis. Mechanical harvesting (MH) of ‘Valencia’ sweet orange is conducted in late spring, when the next season's fruitlets are in their early stages of development. There is a concern that mechanical injury from harvesting machines can cause oleocellosis and fruit drop of young, green ‘Valencia’ sweet orange fruitlets, especially late in the harvest season when fruitlets are relatively large. We evaluated the effects of winter drought stress and subsequent late-season MH with a canopy shaker on oleocellosis of ‘Valencia’ sweet orange fruitlets. In April, mature fruit size, juice content, total soluble solids, and acidity were unaffected by previous winter drought stress treatments. Mechanical harvesting removed ≈90% to 95% of mature fruit and 20% to 50% of fruitlets depending on previous drought stress treatments and harvesting date. Beginning 1 week after the late harvest (13 June), attached fruitlets were tagged and visually evaluated approximately every other month to determine oleocellosis injury until the late-season harvest 12 months later. Only 12% of the fruitlets had oleocellosis on more than 30% of their surface area. Up to 75% of the fruitlets from the previously drought-stressed trees had less than 10% of their surface area injured after MH and 11% of these fruitlets dropped before harvest. Nonetheless, there was no significant increase in fruit drop with increased surface area injured nor was juice quality affected at harvest. Overall, fruit surface oleocellosis decreased and healed as fruit expanded, but surface blemishes did not completely disappear. Thus, fruitlet oleocellosis in late-season mechanically harvested trees was cosmetic and did not increase fruit drop nor alter internal fruit quality.

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Juan Carlos Melgar, Arnold W. Schumann and James P. Syvertsen

We determined if frequency of application of irrigation water plus fertilizer in solution (fertigation) could modify root and shoot growth along with growth per unit nitrogen (N) and water uptake of seedlings of the citrus rootstock Swingle citrumelo growing in a greenhouse. In the first experiment, all plants received the same amount of water with sufficient fertilizer N but in three irrigation frequencies applied in 10 1.5-mL pulses per day, one 15-mL application per day, or 45 mL applied every 3 days. Plants irrigated at the highest frequency grew the least total dry weight and had the highest specific root length. Plants with lowest irrigation frequency grew the most and used the least water so had the highest water use efficiency. There were no irrigation frequency effects on relative growth allocation between shoot and roots, net gas exchange of leaves, or on leaf N. A second experiment used identical biweekly irrigation volumes and fertilizer rates, but water and fertilizer were applied using four frequency combinations: 1) daily fertigation; 2) daily irrigation with fertilizer solution applied every 15 days; 3) fertigation every 3 days; or 4) irrigation every 3 days and fertilizer solution applied every 14 days. Total plant growth was unaffected by treatments, but the highest frequency using the lowest fertilizer concentration grew the greatest root dry weight in the uppermost soil depths. Roots grew less and leaf N was highest when N was applied every 15 days, implying that root N uptake efficiency was increased when fertigated with the highest fertilizer concentration. All plants had similar water use efficiencies. A third experiment was conducted with irrigation every 3 days and with four different N application frequencies: every 3, 6, 12, or 24 days using four fertilizer concentrations but resulting in similar total N amounts every 24 days. There were no differences in growth, gas exchange, or water use efficiency. Given the fact that all treatments received adequate and equal amounts of water and fertilizer, fertigation frequency had only small effects on plant growth, although very high frequency fertigation decreased N uptake efficiency.

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Juan Carlos Melgar, Jill M. Dunlop, L. Gene Albrigo and James P. Syvertsen

We determined if winter drought stress could delay flowering and fruit development of immature ‘Valencia’ sweet oranges to avoid young fruit loss during late-season mechanical harvesting. Beginning in December over three consecutive seasons (2007–2009), Tyvek® water-resistive barrier material was used as a rain shield groundcover under 13- to 15-year-old trees. There were three treatments: 1) drought = no irrigation and covered soil; 2) rain only = no irrigation, no cover; and 3) normal irrigation with rain and no cover. Covers were removed in February or March and normal irrigation and fertilization were resumed. The drought stress did not affect fruit yield, size, percentage juice, or juice quality of the current crop harvested in May and June relative to continuously irrigated trees. Drought stress delayed flowering by 2 to 4 weeks so that the immature fruit for next season's crop were smaller than on continuously irrigated trees during June but fruit growth caught up by September. During mechanical harvesting, previously drought-stressed trees lost fewer young fruit than continuously irrigated trees. Thus, winter drought stress effectively delayed flowering and avoided young fruit loss during late-season mechanical harvesting without negative impacts on yield or fruit quality of ‘Valencia’ orange trees.